CSM Teen Camp Focuses on ‘United We Serve’ Initiative

CSM’s Teen College offered a Community Service Camp this July at the college’s La Plata Campus to help take the mystery out of public service and to introduce teens to volunteer possibilities in their community. Besides doing volunteer work that benefited their community

Community Service Issues, Projects, Inspire Participants to do More

            “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has,” said acclaimed anthropologist Margaret Mead. “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world,” said diarist Anne Frank.

            These quotes and others became part of the T-shirt designs created by teens attending the College of Southern Maryland’s Community Service Camp July 20-24 at the college’s La Plata Campus. CSM’s summer camps offer a variety of programs for interests as wide ranging as photography and robotics. For 16 teens this summer, community service was their camp of choice.

            On their final day of camp, the teens reflected on their week of service, on new friendships and on their plans to continue to serve their community as they designed and signed each other’s keepsake T-shirts.

            “We wanted to offer a community service summer camp to help take the mystery out of public service and to introduce teens to some of the volunteer possibilities in our community,” said Heather Zeolla, CSM coordinator of services and volunteerism for the Center for Civic Engagement and Service Learning, and the Community Service Teen College counselor. “A lot of young people want to participate in national calls for service such as the ‘United We Serve’ initiative, but they don’t know where to start. This camp will provide that start to our campers and we hope that they in turn will inspire their friends and family to do the same.”

            The four-day camp included three off-campus field trips. The teens visited the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) in Waldorf where they sorted donated school supplies, food and clothing for families in need. A poll of the campers found that the fast pace at CAS made the work of sorting and organizing fun. Teens were divided into small groups where they learned a task, and then switched with other groups.

            Jacob Inderrieden of White Plains, a sixth grader at Archbishop Neale School and who had not volunteered before coming to the community service camp, enjoyed the work at the CAS because he felt good helping needy children. On why teens should volunteer, he said, “They should try it, because it really makes a difference in the world.”

            The teens also visited the Richard R. Clark Senior Center in La Plata where they played bingo and other games with the seniors. “The senior center was my favorite,” said Sierra Mitcheltree of Waldorf, a ninth grader at Westlake High School. “I liked interacting with the seniors. I felt that talking with them made a difference; like I cheered them up.” Mitcheltree plans to volunteer at the Charles County Humane Society in Waldorf, at a soup kitchen or with a daycare center, she said. “Learning about community service really makes me want to do more,” she said.

            They also visited Chapman State Park in Indian Head where they spent several hours picking up litter on the beach.

            As well as teaching about community service work, the camp also included a leadership aspect and helped teens earn community service hours toward graduation, Zeolla said.

            Joshua Hall of La Plata, a seventh grader at Piccowaxen Middle School, had never volunteered before. “I liked helping and I liked all the places we went,” said Hall. It’s important to volunteer, Hall said, “so you can help other people, and because it makes you feel good too.”

            For information on Kids College, Teen College or Saturday Discovery programs, visit http://www.csmd.edu/KidsCollege/ or contact Shaunda Holt, SRHolt@csmd.edu, 301-934-7634.

            For information on CSM’s Center for Civic Engagement and Service Learning, visit http://www.csmd.edu/ServiceLearning/.  

“United We Serve” is a nationwide service initiative that will help meet growing social needs resulting from the economic downturn. This initiative aims to both expand the impact of existing organizations by engaging new volunteers in their work and encourage volunteers to develop their own “do-it-yourself” projects. United We Serve is an initial 81 days of service but will grow into a sustained, collaborative and focused effort to promote service as a way of life for all Americans. For information, visit www.serve.gov/about.asp.