Area teens learn benefits of volunteering

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

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By Laura Johnston ~ Southeast Missourian

Teen-agers today don't have the spare time they used to have, but many still find time to devote to volunteering.

Dozens of area non-profit agencies, rely on volunteers to help carry the administrative duties and programs they offer. And more often those volunteers are youth.

Volunteers are important for the nation, and that's why President Bush announced a new partnership with the country's service organizations. In a June 14 address, he said that more than 70 percent of college graduates today were volunteering.

He encouraged more students to get involved. "Service is important to your neighbors; service is important to your character and service is important to your country," he noted.

Three area teens -- and many more like them -- were already volunteering before the president's speech. And they know what benefits can be received from volunteering. Here are their stories:

Liz Nussbaum and Kelley Lichtenegger

Two Jackson, Mo., girls spend part of their summer coaching a softball team in the city's youth league.

Liz Nussbaum and Kelley Lichtenegger, both 16, have been playing softball about as long as they can remember so coaching seemed like a great idea. The pair are assistant coaches with Vickie Noland for the Yankees team in the 14 and under girls division.

Coaching is a little different than just playing on a team because you just take for granted that the girls know the fundamentals of the game, Nussbaum said.

That wasn't so, and she set about to fix the problem. "I saw the pitching in all the league wasn't up to the level it could be, so I thought if I could give them free help it would benefit."

She held a pitching clinic at the park on the past two Saturday mornings. Several girls attended.

Coaching is "a lot harder for this age than when we started," Nussbaum said.

The girls were coaching in the 10- to 12-year-old girls league last year. As the girls aged, you can easily see their skills improve but you have to remember they're only 14, she said. The competition isn't as fierce at this level as it is for the high school or traveling teams.

It's been fun to see the team's reactions to their coaches, too. "They're more into the teaching because they both play high school ball," Noland said. There are some things they can tell the team that Noland can't get them to understand.

If it hadn't been for the teen-agers' enthusiasm and interest in coaching this summer, Noland probably wouldn't have taken on the task, she said.

Lichtenegger offers this advice to anyone considering volunteer work: "Find something you're interested in and like to do, something you can relate to, because it is fun."

Jonathan Atwood

Regardless of what their interests are, students find volunteering can be a great way to spend the summer -- or any time of year.

Jonathan Atwood knows that he doesn't want a job in a health care profession but he's learning plenty about jobs and professional life. "It is like a part-time job," he said.

Atwood, 15, volunteers year-round at Southeast Missouri Hospital where he works two days each week. In just one year of volunteer work, he's accumulated nearly 310 hours.

He says he enjoys the work whether it's a morning spent in the business offices or an afternoon transporting patients in the physical therapy department. After an orientation session he could choose what areas of the hospital he wanted to work in.

"I've worked everywhere from the lab to the business office to transport to maintenance management helping sort order," he said. He likes working in transport because of the hospital employees he gets to see. "They're the reason I chose to work there."

Just like it takes time to learn any new job, the same is true of volunteer jobs, Atwood said. He was a little nervous about learning his tasks when he first started or being accepted as a responsible worker just because he's younger. "You'd be surprised how fast people accept you if you do the job."

But the best part of the work is being able to say you've helped, he said. "Even if it's just helping them with filing, it's helping."

ljohnston@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

colleges and universities are encouraging prospective students to have some volunteer experience before beginning their studies.

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