Thursday, April 10, 2003

Kids already giving back to community

By Anna Guido
Enquirer contributor

[photo] Students from Aiken High School Leadership Team will distribute teddy bears to children in Over-the-Rhine.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
Forty students from Aiken High School will "plunge" into Over-the-Rhine, visiting the homeless and elderly, and handing out teddy bears to children.

Students from Dater, Woodward, Kings Mills and Clark Montessori schools will fill gift bags with cards, crafts and toys for children and families at the Ronald McDonald House.

The "Race to Vaccinate," organized by a Sycamore High School student, will raise money for the Measles Initiative.

In all, more than 1,000 students in Greater Cincinnati will join millions of other young people Friday and Saturday as community volunteers in the 15th annual National Youth Service Day.

The YMCA of Greater Cincinnati, one of 50 agencies chosen to lead the national public awareness and education campaign, is coordinating the local effort.

"It's a chance for me to give back to my community and better my neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods," said Brandi Hall, 17, an Aiken High senior from College Hill and a member of the school's Leadership Team participating in "Urban Plunge."

The Leadership Team is a group of students who meet weekly and do community service projects.

"If you do something good for someone else," Hall said, "it makes you feel better about yourself."

Read to children Friday at the following elementary schools through the YMCA sponsored "KidzLit" literacy program.
• 2-6 p.m. at Losantiville Elementary, 6701 Elbrook Ave., Amberley Village.
• 4-6 p.m. at The Academy of Multilingual Immersion Studies, 1908 Seymour Ave., Roselawn.
• 3-6 p.m. at Dater Montessori School, 2840 Boudinot Ave., Westwood.
For information, call Jennifer Wagner, (513) 362-2896.
A goal of National Youth Service Day is to teach young people the value of community service.

"Millions of young people serving together on this day creates a tidal wave of good and sends a powerful message of hope and healing around the globe," said Steve Culbertson, president and CEO of Youth Service America, a sponsoring organization.

A recent study conducted by Youth Service America found that two-thirds of the estimated 44 percent of U.S. adults who volunteer began doing so when they were young.

Karthik Balasubramanian, 17, the Sycamore High senior organizing "Race to Vaccinate" through his involvement with the Cincinnati Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, began volunteering when he was 12. "I know how less fortunate I could be," said Balasubramanian, of Blue Ash. "It's so important to step out of our comfort zone and face the realities of the problems globally, especially with the children of the world."

"Race to Vaccinate," a 5K run/walk at the Museum Center at Union Terminal, is grassroots support for the worldwide Measles Initiative and kicks off a citywide campaign for measles advocacy and fund-raising. "It's all about empowering youth to make a real difference," Balasubramanian said.

This year marks the first time National Youth Service Day has been staged in Cincinnati.

In addition to Youth Service America, other sponsoring organizations include National Youth Leadership Council, Parade magazine and more than 60 of the nation's largest non-profit and youth development organizations.

For information about local events, call Rebecca Kelley at YMCA of Greater Cincinnati, (513)362-2045, or e-mail


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