I was fortunate enough to begin volunteering in community theatre at the age of 14, thanks to a wonderful mentor of mine, Linda Anderson. Linda coached me in roles, drove me to rehearsals, registered me for directing competitions and gave constant encouragement and feedback. It was a gift to develop a love for community theatre. It brings people out of their varied everyday lives and lets them collaborate and create in a way that most day-to-day events don't allow.
What I've come to learn through my volunteer experience is that every young person, shy and introverted or otherwise, has some gift of talent and passion within them. A few of them discover theirs at a young age - cooking with their mom, hunting with their dad, playing baseball with their friends after school. But many haven't. Maybe their passion is programming robots, raising chickens, editing film, serving people in their community - and maybe they have never had the opportunity to try those things, or to even consider trying them.
Today I get to work with some of the most inspiring people I have met. They're not artists in the traditional sense - creating visual art or performing - but staff and volunteers in the 4-H program who use creativity and ingenuity to create a community of mentors, sponsors and leaders who all work to give young people the opportunity to find the talent they already have and learn to use it to become life-long learners and leaders.
Linda coached me in the art of theatre and showed me how practicing art teaches us transferable skills like collaboration, leadership, expression, compromise, diligence, exploration, evaluation and self-awareness. I thought she was only sharing her love of theatre with me, but I now realize she taught me even more about the power that mentors have to tear down the barriers that youth envision around them, and open a world of opportunities, options and choice.
To find an organization to mentor youth or otherwise positively impact our community, call the Volunteer Network of Clay County at 262-IVOL (4865) or go online at www.volunteerclaycounty.com