Op Ed by SCA Crew Leader Chuck Lafferty
For the past three summers, I’ve been a crew leader with the Student Conservation Association, a national organization that provides young people with service opportunities. Each July and August, I lead a team of Philadelphia high school students we rarely hear about: inner-city youths who are making significant positive contributions to their neighborhoods and to the city as a whole. These teens learn valuable lessons during our six weeks together, but they’ve taught me something too – the importance of volunteering.
Many of the teenagers I work with come from tough neighborhoods and situations where career training and positive mentors are not readily available. But they’ve created real opportunities for themselves through community service, and the payoff has been real – not financial but every bit as valuable.
The students with whom I worked learned crucial job skills, even though we were nowhere near an office. They were always on time, and not one of them missed a single day. They worked hard, removing invasive plants and clearing debris, and they had results to show for it: miles of repaired trails in Philadelphia parks and nature preserves and acres of restored habitats.
These teens learned to work in teams, a vital skill for many employers. It takes two people working in tight rhythm to cut a tree with a crosscut saw, and even then it’s physically demanding work. They loved it.
They also made great contacts and now have references to vouch for their work ethic – and not just from me. One day this summer, Karen Baskerville, a biology professor at Lincoln University, joined us and spoke with my crew members, all rising high school sophomores and juniors. She came away so impressed with them that she gave each of them her card and said they could use her as a reference on their college applications. You can’t put a dollar value on that kind of a competitive advantage. Who knows where it will take them?
Read the entire article at The Philly Inquirer.