About this story
Micki Chestnut is communications director for the United Way of Douglas County, which provides occasional features spotlighting local volunteers and charities supported by the United Way.
Pulling weeds in a school vegetable garden may not sound like a way to change the world, unless you see things from Marlee Yost-Wolff’s perspective.
Yost-Wolff spent hours toiling in the South Middle School garden this summer because she gets the big picture: The veggies harvested from the garden will provide students with nutritious school lunches. When students eat well, they are healthier and better able to learn. When students thrive in school, they are more likely to graduate and achieve their potential. That’s a huge return on investment for digging dandelions.
Yost-Wolff, a senior at Free State High School, is an avid believer in the power of volunteering to bring about positive change in the community and in the volunteers themselves. That’s why she’s been a big part of the United Way Roger Hill Volunteer Center’s Student United Way and Summer of Service activities for the past year.
Join the Student United Way and Impact the Community
The Student United Way kicks off the school year at 6 p.m. Aug. 19 at the United Way Center, 2518 Ridge Court. All high school students are invited to be a part of this student-led volunteer engagement group.
“The Student United Way helps young people learn about their community, gives them an opportunity to develop leadership and interpersonal skills, and broadens their worldview by exposing them to situations they might not run across in their day-to-day lives,” said Shelly Hornbaker, coordinator for the United Way Roger Hill Volunteer Center. “And, it’s also lots of fun.”
For more information on the Student United Way, contact Hornbaker at firstname.lastname@example.org or (785) 865-5030.
Yost-Wolff was just looking for a way to beat summer boredom when she signed up for two volunteer internships last summer as part of the Summer of Service. This annual service-learning program for middle school and high school students allows youth to engage in weeklong service learning projects and in summer-long volunteer internships. Yost-Wolff interned for the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence and the Lawrence Interdenominational Nutrition Kitchen (LINK).
She was hooked.
“I enjoyed the Summer of Service so much, I wanted to make sure other students would have the same experience,” she said. So Yost-Wolff joined the Student United Way, a group of high school students who create, plan and organize group volunteer projects.
The Student United Way is open to all high school students and meets once a month during the school year to plan service learning opportunities for school breaks, said Shelly Hornbaker, coordinator for the United Way Roger Hill Volunteer Center.
During winter break last year, the Student United Way engaged students in volunteer projects at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Child Care Aware, Social Service League and the Ballard Center. Over spring break, students volunteered with the United Way BrainFood children’s book drive, the Child Abuse Prevention Task Force, CASA and Douglas County Senior Services.
This summer, Yost-Wolff once again filled her volunteer schedule full of Summer of Service activities. In addition to doing the internship at the South Middle School student garden, she was the project leader for the weeklong projects at Hidden Valley Camp and the United Way BrainFood children’s book drive. She also participated in projects at Lumberyard Arts and the Boys & Girls Club. This fall, she will be involved with the Student United Way once again.
After seeing the impact volunteering has had on her own life, the lives of other teens and on the community, Yost-Wolff is a big believer in getting students engaged. “It can make a huge difference on teen volunteers’ brains when they have these experiences,” she said. “It’s going to change the way they look at the world.”