Scientific studies have found volunteering actually makes people happier and healthier. Last year 61 million Americans volunteered 8.1 billion hours of community service. That‘s nearly $158 billion in donated labor and happiness.
U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh believes one way to continue this activity is to engage young people. So, each fall the senator recognizes young people’s activity in community volunteerism at a service leadership summit. High school students from around the state get together share stories of their service and participate in a one-day service project.
Young people are busy with sports, school clubs, family commitments, and academics, but many kids see the value in giving back to their community.
On a cold Saturday this fall about 150 young people met at IUPUI for the sixth annual service leadership summit. The summit, created by Sen. Bayh, supports and recognizes teens who are involved in community efforts and puts them to work on a one-day volunteer project.
Bayh said, “Well I hope they will have an even higher level of enthusiasm for public service by meeting with other people who are equally devoted to helping their communities that kind of thing can be infectious and I hope that they’ll get some good ideas that they can take back home to help their own communities.”
Teens have different reasons for volunteering. Caleb Gollozis, from Bloomington says while it looks good on his college applications, he knows it’s not completely selfless. For Caleb’s leadership summit project he volunteered at DAMAR a facility for young people with emotional and intellectual disabilities.
Caleb said, “I just like giving back to the community I think it’s a very good thing to do. For those who are very well-privileged and born healthy it’s almost their responsibility to help those who are less privileged.”
Caleb and other volunteers played basketball during a pickup game with the DAMAR kids, teaching the importance of teamwork.
Danielle Conlon from Columbus is another volunteer at DAMAR. Danielle participated in a sack race with some of the kids. She’s been actively volunteering in her community for 4 years.
Danielle said, “It’s just like a way for me to get away from my own life and to see other people’s lives and kind of a reality check sometimes that my life really isn’t the center of the universe.”
Sen. Bayh believes public service not only makes the community better, but also improves society.
Bayh said, “You know public service, helping others, um, that’s vitally important. So I hope we can get beyond this whole business of being divided as a country as you know liberals or conservatives, or Democrats or Republicans or all that kind of stuff and instead realize we’ve got a lot in common and we need to help one another out.”
About 15.5 million youth ages 12-18 participate in volunteer activities -- that’s nearly twice the adult volunteering rate. A UCLA study in 2006 found that 66.3 percent of young people surveyed said it’s essential to help others--- this is the highest percentage in 25 years and Sen. Bayh hopes to grow that number.
Copyright 2008 Y-Press