Written by Nicole Craine, Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference Program Director
Despite the impact COVID-19 has had on in-person meetings, the Hands4Hope Education Program Staff and Youth Leaders have begun the process of successfully launching clubs for 12 middle and high schools, including the addition of a new club at Folsom Middle School! All Hands4Hope Clubs will meet virtually until at least 2021 using the Zoom platform. Youth Leaders learned how to plan and facilitate and practiced hosting virtual meetings during Retreat Island, the summer leadership retreats held in July and August.
Folsom Middle School joined the list of already established middle school clubs at: Camerado, Herbert Green, Markham, Marina-Frontier, Rolling Hills and Sutter; and the high school clubs at: El Dorado, Folsom, Oak Ridge, Ponderosa, and Union Mine. All clubs are currently accepting online applications for club participants: click here to apply.
With the expansion to Folsom Middle School, Hands4Hope Clubs are expected to engage approximately 260 youth participants in learning more about their own communities and how they can help fill unmet needs. Through Hands4Hope’s unique youth leadership model, youth leaders learn how to lead their peers through the step-by-step framework of service learning: Investigation, Planning and Preparation, Action, Reflection, and Demonstration. Together youth learn: how to identify a community need; how to create and execute a project to fulfill a community need; how to evaluate their project and finally how to demonstrate to others what they learned. Each club works to complete two projects annually to fill two different unmet community needs. Hands4Hope programs strengthen youth, who in turn strengthen local charities. These youth led projects have real impact on the community, through people served and charitable organizations supported with donations of food, supplies, funds and in-kind volunteer hours.
Why are youth drawn to Hands4Hope? The autonomy and responsibility given to youth makes Hands4Hope different from other service organizations. It is the primary reason Hands4Hope is suited to empower all who participate. Hands4Hope fosters a culture of peer inclusiveness where students of all backgrounds feel comfortable, and work alongside each other with the common mission of serving others.
You may be wondering how meeting on a virtual platform will impact clubs. Over the last six months the Hands4Hope Education Program Staff and the 2020/21 Youth Leaders have been working hard to learn all of the elements of using the Zoom platform, along with other digital tools, to help create a fun and engaging virtual environment. The feedback from the virtual portion of the summer leadership retreat was overwhelmingly positive, with youth noting how surprising it was to enjoy being in Zoom meetings with their peers. In addition, staff are currently working to arrange both the Placerville and El Dorado Hills Youth Centers to be safe spaces to host small meetings and project work sessions that meet health and safety requirements.
Looking ahead, watch for Hands4Hope Club Projects to begin rolling out in October.