On April 23, more than 350 volunteers joined efforts in the tradition of the world's largest youth-oriented service event.
Now celebrated in more than 100 countries, Global Youth Service Day was established in 1988 by Youth Service America to engage more young people in improving their communities, while learning about the issues that exist within them.
In 1995, the Southeast Alaska Guidance Association began organizing Juneau's GYSD with projects from beach cleanups, resulting in tons of collected trash, to serving Juneau's homeless and hungry.
An official kick-off for this year's GYSD began the morning of April 23 at Cope Park with the gathering of students and teachers from Thunder Mountain High School, Juneau-Douglas High School and Juneau Charter School.
The volunteers received a welcome and words of encouragement from Parks and Recreation Director Marc Matsil, Rep. Cathy Muñoz and Rotarian and Juneau Soccer Club coach Carl Ferlauto.
Between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., the youth volunteers provided service to the Glory Hole, AWARE, Pioneers Home, Southeast Alaska Food Bank and the city of Juneau. Most of the projects involved cleaning or picking up litter. Youth who could not leave school to participate on Friday found other ways to be a part of the event.
Government and National Honor Society students joined SAGA's Corps Team Leaders to serve the U.S. Forest Service at the new Trail of Time on April 22. On GYSD Transition students at Thunder Mountain painted a new sign for the Southeast Alaska Food Bank in their classroom while the Charter School youth paired up with elementary students to work at Gastineau Elementary on improving a trail behind the school.
The volunteers re-gathered at Cope Park for a lunch provided by SAGA. Sally Smith, former mayor of Juneau who currently works for Sen. Mark Begich and is a strong advocate for service, reflected on the importance of observation and learning in volunteerism.
"It was an incredible effort of volunteerism, a huge benefit to the City and Borough and the community, and a very well coordinated even," said Landscape Department Director Kevin Brady.
GYSD occurs in April every year and SAGA will start planning next year's event this fall. GYSD 2010 was very successful with very special thanks to First Student for the donation of transportation, the project sponsors mentioned in this article, Kevin Brady, of the city of Juneau Landscape Department; Kristen Wells and the freshman class of Thunder Mountain; and all of the teachers and students that contributed to the efforts. Also, thank you to McDonald's, Subway, Heritage Coffee and Costco for food and beverage contributions.
April Rebert is a community volunteer specialist for SAGA.