Commentary: Thanks to Valley United Way, 25 years of youth leadership

Congratulations to the Valley United Way on celebrating 25 Years of their Youth Leadership program. Unique to our own local United Way, the program has spent 25 years preparing and mentoring youth for future leadership roles in their communities.

This year-long program encourages students to get involved in the community and trains them extensively to be future leaders. Students learn about community needs, the importance of nonprofit agencies, and the role volunteerism plays in addressing those needs.

Being a part of the program while in high school, I and other Youth Leaders saw firsthand the needs of our community and how organizations like the Valley United Way work to improve the region.

In addition to participating in community service activities, we conducted an assessment in order to determine community needs for programs and services aimed solely at high school students.

When the results were compiled and needs identified, we requested proposals that addressed these needs from nonprofit organizations in the area. Youth Leadership members were given the responsibility to review and evaluate the proposals as part of our own allocation process.

Offered insight

Deciding what organizations would receive the resources offered insight into how difficult it is to provide assistance when the needs outweigh the resources you have on hand.

Learning about the agencies that carry out this important work taught us that we live in a caring, tight-knit community.

Upon my completion of the Youth Leadership program, the United Way asked me help lead its Community Campaign while still a student at Shelton High School. With the help of others who had a lifetime dedicated to service, we had a successful campaign.

Valuing young people

This experience demonstrated to me how our local United Way truly places a premium on our Valley’s young people, and I will never forget that.

The Valley United Way and other area organizations showed the Youth Leaders that volunteering does not have to be just a high school activity; it can be a lifelong mission. You can, in fact, have a fulfilling life of service.

Now I see our work on the other side, as a board of director for the Valley United Way. Seeing high school students embark on the same path I did shows me that that our work never stops — it cannot stop — because the future of our town and state are walking the halls of our high schools right now.

Program has impacted thousands

Over the 25 years of Youth Leadership, thousands of students have been impacted by the program, and more than $60,000 in funding has been allocated to agencies focusing on youth.

All of the youth leaders went onto their own journey, but we all benefited from the Valley United Way setting the foundation for us to lead a life of service.

Congratulations to the Valley United Way on your 25 years of Youth Leadership.

Jimmy Tickey is a lifelong Shelton resident.