Somewhere along the line, I volunteered (or as a friend joked, “got voluntold”) to lead our company’s Day of Service activity for the Pittsburgh area. We hosted it at the Consol Energy Center/PPG Paints Arena (boo), and someone told me that some of the people saw the Pens morning skate before the event started – wish I’d been able to sneak a pic of that!
While I knew the general premise of what the project was about, I didn’t totally understand it until partway through the day (the basic premise was planned by our corporate people). We partnered with a well-established company that works with high school kids to provide them with grant money for pitching ideas on how they can implement health and wellness ideas at their schools. The kids, all aged 13-17, came up with their individual ideas, practiced pitching to the mentors (my team), and then presented in front of a panel of judges. The judges awarded 10 $1,000 prizes to the different students/ideas, and the winners will go on for a chance to win an additional $10,000.
This all sounded just fine conceptually, but I was wholly unprepared for how awesome these kids and their ideas were. Some of the ideas were obvious – build a greenhouse on campus and use that food to get students to eat healthier, add more gym time – but despite the overlap in ideas, the students presented similar ideas in different ways. Then there were some really creative ideas, such as one of my favorites, a “Backpack Project,” where the student suggested her school provide weekend backpacks for students in need. The backpacks will contain some clothing essentials, hygiene products, and healthy foods that the lower income students may not have access to; the students will sign out the backpacks with a guidance counselor or faculty sponsor so that there’s no stigma associated with receiving one of the backpacks. I also loved the idea of the kids who wanted to provide transportation to shuttle the students to the humane society twice during midterms and twice during finals week for puppy playtime stress relief… I’d like for us to implement that where I work. 😉
It turned out to be a really great day, and I think I learned just as much as the kids. I’ll say this, though, the event completely exhausted me. It was over by 3:30, but my plan was to go to the volunteer office to sort out some stuff with orientation materials, so I made it a true full day of service. By the time I got to volleyball, I was still doing okay, but partway through our first game, I got so incredibly tired that it hurt to speak. I realize that sounds really dumb, but honestly, opening my mouth was just too much for me to handle. I was a little afraid I’d wreck the car on the way home, because I kept staring at the road without actually registering it. It’s been a very busy week, and I’ve been on a lot of volunteer calls over the last 5 or 6 days, so this might be the big crash everyone’s been expecting from me for the last 10 months. Hopefully a decent night’s sleep will take care of the problem and I’ll be as good as new tomorrow.
As for today, I’m so glad I got to attend the service event and be inspired by teenagers. Turns out they’re not so bad after all. 😉