Youth United Way - In the News!

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High School Students Gain Real World Experience Through Youth United Way
Published April 2016 - Today's Family Magazine

Youth United Way Lake County is offering local high school students the opportunity to learn about and have direct impact on local nonprofit agencies. 

They even have the power to allocate $10,000 real dollars to the local programs they select. This educational program is comprised of 16 students from six Lake County schools: South, Willoughby-Eastlake Career Academy, Mentor, Madison, Riverside and Kirtland. 

The students come together for six weeks to learn about the programs and services these agencies offer and to gain a deeper understanding about what they do. They're facilitated by members of United Way's Young Leaders group and visit agencies such as Salvation Army Citadel, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Project Hope for the Homeless, Child Care On-The-Square and Birthright. They visit and tour each agency, ask questions and learn about how each one helps the community. 

"It's a really amazing program," says Youth United Way Program Director Nicole Parker. "It's a great opportunity for them to be young leaders and make an impact on our community." 

"Being in this program has truly shown me all the great things United Way does," said Trevor Pugh, senior and student body president at Mentor High School. 

"Whether it's providing money to programs who serve troubled children, recovering adults, or financially struggling senior citizens, there are so many people that are helped by this organization." 

At the end of the six weeks, the power is in the students' hands. It's up to them to decide how to allocate $10,000 dollars among the thirteen participating agencies. They work together to discuss the various benefits, opportunities and ways that the funds will be used to come to a consensus about how to distribute the donation. 

They can give all the money to one organization, or divide it among all thirteen. The students will present their decision on April 17 at the United Way board meeting to conclude the program. 

"It's a great way for them to learn leadership skills. They learn how to collaborate together and build relationships; how to respect each other's opinions," Parker says of the cooperative decision-making process. 

Trevor was surprised to learn the vast amount of nonprofit agencies there are in Lake County. "There were a lot that I had never even heard about. There are so many wonderful agencies that are helping people, and I cannot wait to see what great things they do in the future." 

Several students involved have become interested in volunteering with the agencies that resonate with them. For example, Trevor really enjoyed playing with the kids at Child Care On-The-Square and is interested in possibly continuing volunteering there, with Big Brothers Big Sisters or the Lake County Free Clinic. 

"Our youth are looking to get involved and for that empowerment. They're the decision makers in this process. They want to be heard, and they feel good about the impact that they're making and their decision," says Parker. 

"Youth United Way is a fantastic program and I love it dearly. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone interested. I wish I would have known about the program earlier, because I would have been first in line to join!" Trevor says. 

This free program is open to all schools and all students in Lake County. 
If you know a student who would like to get involved during the 2016 – 2017 school year, he or she can start the application process at