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Young People Make a Difference

Do you know what to do if you meet up with a moose? In Palmer, Alaska, a group of young volunteers teaches moose safety. Moose safety is important in Alaska, where many of these large animals live near people. Walking between a cow moose and her calf can upset a mother moose and sometimes result in a moose attack. The volunteers in Palmer want to be sure that young children stay safe around moose, so they teach the children what to do when these animals are nearby.

The moose safety project is one of hundreds around the country in which young people help others. One event that helps educate young people about things they can do for others is National Youth Service Day (NYSD). Every year on this day, organizations all over the country celebrate young volunteers, educate young people about how they can help their country, and invite them to participate in service projects. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “National Youth Service Day honors young volunteers and is an invitation to others to join hands and do our part as Americans.”

Founded in 1988, NYSD originally took place on a Tuesday. Now the event lasts from Friday until Sunday so that more people can participate. More than 200 organizations work together to create thousands of projects each year. Millions of young people across the United States take part in these service projects.

Long before the event, people, community groups, schools, and nonprofit organizations think of ways to meet their communities' needs. Then, they plan projects for young volunteers. Projects include bringing food to people who are hungry, tutoring younger children, helping senior citizens, and cleaning up rivers. During the event, young people choose a project to work on. Together, young people from the community do things like plant neighborhood vegetable gardens, deliver meals to homebound citizens, organize food banks, and clean up local parks.

The organizations that contribute to NYSD believe that volunteering and community service are important activities for people of all ages, but especially for young people. “Volunteers learn important skills like teamwork and responsibility,” said Melissa Helmbrecht, founder of the volunteer organization Champions of Hope. Young people who volunteer are more likely to do well in school, vote, and contribute to charities. More important, they help other people. Teenagers alone volunteer 2.4 billion hours each year for organizations around the country. Whether they plant flowers in public spaces or volunteer at the Special Olympics, all of these volunteers help make the world a better place for everyone.