Giving truth to Memphis youth
White Station High School
Shouldn’t Habitat for Humanity be building houses? Why are students helping to plan different events?
Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization which was started in 1976, works to build homes for families that are in need of a decent shelter. seven years after its establishment, the Greater Memphis area saw a need for a Habitat for Humanity program to be implemented into our city. Concerned individuals were interested in building affordable housing. Since its establishment Habitat for Humanity has built more than 400 houses with current building happening in the Uptown area.
The initial establishment relied primarily for adult volunteers. But how are students involved in this entire organization one may ask? To engage students aged five-25, Habitat for Humanity created Youth United. Youth United is a leadership board of students. The students help by brainstorming different ideas for Habitat for Humanity to reach its yearly fundraising goal. Fundraising allows for individuals to fund and build a Habitat for Humanity home. Not every student comes from the same socioeconomic background, religion, or race. Youth United brings together private and public school students. And Habitat for Humanity Youth United allows students to try out different positions, such as, High school Chairperson, Fundraising Chair, and many more. Serving in one of the leadership positions allows a student to work with the different events and to interact with those from different backgrounds.
Current member and fundraising chair, Nithila Ramesh, said, “Habitat for Humanity is more than just an opportunity to give back. It’s a chance to shape your perspective of the community through the service you do for others. It’s exciting to see your peers take part in it alongside you, it gives you an unspoken confidence in potentially making a difference in the future.”
Youth United in the greater Memphis area was established in 2007; this established partnerships with different schools—charter, private, and public schools—to engage students. Since students have come up with different fundraising ideas—restaurant fundraisers, music affiliated programs, and the standard yard sale.
“Youth United serves as a way to involve Memphis-area youth – from various schools and parts of town – to get involved with the mission of Habitat for Humanity,” said Jessica Hord, Director of Marketing and Communications at Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis. “The program is, of course, fun for students, and it offers them experience in collaborating with a diverse group of their peers and Habitat staff and develops their personal leadership skills. But most importantly, Youth United gives students the opportunity to affect the lives of local families—many that include children—by helping them build and buy homes for the first time. It’s pretty incredible what determined youth can accomplish, and Memphis Habitat hopes to continue to grow the program in the coming years.”
To date, the biggest fundraisers for Youth United Memphis have been the Annual Yard Sale and Battle of the Bands.
Usually in April, Battle of the Bands gathers bands from middle school to college age in the Memphis-area to compete in a music competition. For the past four years, people would gather their family and friends together to listen to the music of the bands at the Carriage Crossing Mall. The voting works by putting money in different band boxes based on preference. Not only is there music, but trivia is played and door prizes can be won. Last year, Battle of the Bands generated a profit of $2000.
Due to the cost and ever evolving program the annual Battle of the Bands did not occur this year. But there are high hopes of it returning.
While Battle of the Bands could not be the major fundraiser, The Annual Yard Sale stepped up this year. Youth United Memphis volunteers from local schools such as Germantown, Bolton, and White Station helped with gathering items, sorting, and pricing. On March 29, the Yard Sale made $1000 redeeming itself from the lower funds it raised last year attributed to the weather.
Former members have seen how much the organization impacts the lives of people and what young students are doing to benefit the community through their efforts.
Now in college, former member and chairperson for Battle of the Bands, David Oppong reflects back on his time in Youth United, “Being in Youth United for 4 years has made me see how great it is for people to be involved and how much help it gives people.”
With Youth United about to pause for the summer, it is never too late for students to start thinking about joining for the 2014-2015 school year. Not only does it give leadership and stimulate creative thoughts; it allows one to give back to the community through volunteering.
To get involved contact Amy Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.