Youth Voices

The Next Louisville: Youth Talk Community Service And Volunteerism

This year, as part of The Next Louisville, WFPL is highlighting the stories of youth in our community. Some of that is through long- and short-form stories about kids, teenagers and young adults and their interests, achievements and challenges. You’ll also hear more first-person stories about and by young people in Louisville.

As part of this project, we’ve planned a different kind of platform to let youth talk about issues that matter to them.

Six youth talk shows are planned this year, all focusing on different topics, in partnership with WE Day Kentucky. This month, four young people who are all active in Louisville’s community service scene got together to talk about volunteerism and activism.

The discussion was moderated by Forest Clevenger, a senior at DuPont Manual High School. Joining him in the studio were Mandala Gupta VerWiebe, a sophomore at Manual; Trey Brown, an eighth grader at the West End School; and Kayla Payne, a sophomore at the University of Louisville.

Forest Clevenger, Mandala Gupta VerWiebe, Kayla Payne and Trey Brown. Photo by Erica Peterson.

Listen here:

The conversation will air Thursday at 8 p.m. on 89.3 WFPL; you can listen to it in the player above or read highlights below.

What kinds of volunteer work have you done?

Kayla: “I think that volunteering is something that I’ve been doing for quite a long time. I started out doing it with my church when I was younger, and then kind of moving on to, like, any of the honor societies that I was in high school, and then moving on until now where I just continue to volunteer as part of my scholarship organization. I’m currently a Martin Luther King, Jr. scholar at the University of Louisville. So we are centered around social justice and service.”

Mandala: “I feel like [volunteering is] something that for a long time, you don’t really notice that you’re doing it until you do like an event. And you say, ‘Oh, we need volunteers for this event.’ And so I feel like, you know, I’ve been volunteering since I was very young. But now I’m sort of getting more into advocating for others through volunteering, which is really exciting.”

Trey Brown. Photo by J. Tyler Franklin.

Trey: “My first time volunteering was when I was in Pre-K, and I was actually with my grandmother, and we went to a homeless shelter. You got to feed them, and just give stuff away like clothes and showers, things like deodorant that they needed and stuff to stay warm during the winter. It made me feel like doing things that you want someone else to do for you can go a long way. And [one thing] can be many things to many different people.”

Why do you continue to volunteer?

Mandala: “For me, I feel like volunteering comes with a self-fulfillment feeling, where after you volunteer, even if you don’t see the direct results of it, it makes you feel fuller on the inside after you help people. And sometimes it makes you feel even better when you help people without them knowing that you’re helping them.”

Do you think service ought to be a part of our culture?

Trey: “I think so. Because I think everyone should take part to make the world a better place for everyone.”

Mandala: “I think that making it more accessible to people to be able to serve, because a lot of people don’t know what to do, and a lot of people don’t recognize that they’re helping others with their actions…there’s a stigma where you serve as like a high school student, or someone who has free time. But I think that if we made it more like you could do small things in your daily life, it would end up being more impactful on more people.”

Forest Clevenger. Photo by J. Tyler Franklin.

Forest: “It feels like there’s this line between going to serve, and then just having it be acts of compassion, you just do every single day.”

What are the different types of service for you?

Kayla: “I think that there’s direct service and indirect service. So you have these things like philanthropy, which is really important to raise money for organizations. And then you have direct service, which is actually being on the ground and sorting clothes or planting gardens.

“Indirect service can be labeled as philanthropy efforts, efforts of advocacy, which means talking to your representatives, and talking to your senators, talking to people or large organizations that have a stake in the issue that is happening in your community. I know Trey mentioned protests and rallies, those are also forms of service because you are fighting for a cause.”

Do you find more fulfillment from direct or indirect service?

Mandala Gupta VerWiebe. Photo by J. Tyler Franklin.

Mandala: “I really think that it makes you feel great when you, you can do service, like you can sort clothes, and even though you’re seeing yourself sorting the clothes, and you don’t see the people who are getting the clothes, that feels great. But at the same time, going and speaking to your representatives makes you feel so powerful, because you are at the same time as advocating for others, you’re taking a stand. Because I feel like part of volunteering is that you’re willingly sacrificing something, whether it’s time or whether it’s labor, or whether it’s courage or something like that.

“And I think that sacrificing courage, at least for me is really important. And I think that being brave is my favorite way of volunteering and advocating for others.”

Kayla Payne (left) and Mandala Gupta VerWiebe (right). Photo by J. Tyler Franklin.

How important is getting thanked or recognized for your service?

Kayla: “I definitely think that it helps. We all like to be made to feel as if we are important and as if the work that we’re doing is necessary. But I think that too much of that distracts us. I think that when you do service, you don’t do it to be thanked. It is good to be thanked. But at the same time if you get that too often, I think that you forget that the point you did it in the first place is because you didn’t want to be recognized for the service that you’re doing. You wanted to do it because you felt as if that were a necessary component and uplifting your community.”

The Next Louisville project is a collaboration between WFPL News and the Community Foundation of Louisville. For more work from the project, click here. 

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