By David Voegele
Executive Director, Essex CHIPS
In prior columns, I have referenced the importance of community service by youth. It is a means by which young people develop a sharpened sense of responsibility to others. The volunteer experiences of youth increase the likelihood they will continue serving others throughout their lifetime. This can be through faith-based organizations, United Way volunteer opportunities, schools, or other community groups. One of the most impactful service agencies in this state is the Vermont Youth Development Corps (VYDC), based in Montpelier. VYDC has been a strong supporter of Essex youth programs for many years, through the placement of AmeriCorps/VISTA members here for 10-12 months of service.
Marc Allen is the most recent AmeriCorps member to join the CHIPS team. He is 20 years old, and took a year off from college to serve Essex area youth. I asked him why. “I joined AmeriCorps for a variety of reasons. My father always encouraged me to serve others in ways big and small. I attended a university for a year but did not feel like it was the right fit for me…so I decided to apply for some AmeriCorps positions… Adolescent psychology is something I am considering for a career, and I get to serve youth and their needs here at CHIPS. I feel like I’ll be helping to make a tangible difference in people’s lives.”
Marc is not a native Vermonter. He traveled here from Northern CA, at his own expense, to serve the youth in this community. I asked him about his impressions of the state thus far. “My very first impression of Vermont is how green and mountainous it is… I have to admit that maple-flavored anything is growing on me. The fall leaves also live up to their reputation… I mistakenly believed that snowfall would hit Essex later in the year…but that notion fell flat on its face this week.”
In that Marc had only recently “graduated” from being a teen, I asked for his thoughts on the challenges facing youth today. He responded, “Being an adolescent means a host of things for the young body and mind. Everything is changing, and things that once made so much sense don’t anymore…Conversely, there’s such a strong desire to “fit in” and be one of the “cool kids.” Looking back…it seems ridiculous that I let things like that affect me so much, but it is the way that your brain is wired as an adolescent.”
Marc Allen is a thoughtful and concerned young adult who now lives in Essex Junction. He is here for nearly a year to “support, engage, inspire, and empower” our local teens. Just as I know he will have a positive impact on them, I know our youth will have a positive impact on him. Perhaps Marc, like so many others, may find it a bit hard to leave after “living the Vermont experienc.”