Giving back to the community can stem from numerous incentives, including strengthening a college application or building a resume. For Vail Mountain School junior Erica Charles, the motivation is simple - when everyone gives, everyone gains.
Charles is participating in Eagle River Youth Coalition's Youth Leaders Council, a local program that brings together students from various local high schools to engage in leadership development, participate in service projects, and advocate for community needs.
"I've learned a lot about the issues that affect kids here in Eagle County, and I have gained respect for others," Charles said. "I love getting to know other people from around the valley. They all have different perspectives to bring to the table. I feel more involved in the community, and more aware."
This year's Youth Leaders Council class has served in an advisory capacity for various program concepts and marketing strategies so that community entities have a strong sense of how youth will react before unveiling a new effort.
"I really liked learning about the Police Post 204 (Police Explorers) program and I hope to see kids from the valley take advantage of the opportunity," Charles said. "I think its values and lessons are so important for kids to learn - self-confidence, self-defense, as well as helping the greater community while having fun!"
Charles' service interests vary, and include volunteering at a Denver-based soup kitchen, Habitat for Humanity, the senior center, and elementary schools throughout the valley. She is also involved with philanthropy and women's leadership groups through Vail Mountain School.
Charles encourages peers to get involved in service for the learning and growth opportunities that stem from giving back.
"I hope they gain a greater understanding of pressing issues as well as a greater awareness of opportunities to help the community," she said.
Charles hopes to use her voice to influence others in the valley to make smart decisions and to give back.
"Service can bring together the community and create positive change, to lead to a better future," Charles resolved.
Michelle Stecher is executive director of the Eagle River Youth Coalition. The Youth Leaders Council is a project of the Eagle River Youth Coalition, a local nonprofit organization that offers collaborative prevention programs and services to tackle three main areas that affect the development of teens and adolescent youth including: substance abuse prevention, emotional wellness and mental health promotion, and academic achievement. In addition to Youth Leaders Council, Eagle River Youth Coalition offers various levels of parenting classes and trainings to community members. For more information, call 970-949-9250 or visit www.eagleyouth.org.