#WhyWednesday: JT Williams

What’s your “why” – the reason you give, advocate and volunteer in Greater Atlanta? Everyone has a story to share. Today, Youth United board member JT Williams shows us that your why doesn’t have to be complicated. Sometimes it’s as simple as wanting to create an equal playing field for every member of your community.

Ready to dig in and do your part to help Greater Atlanta? Whether you want to volunteer, learn about our giving opportunities, join a group or step up as a nonprofit board leader, United Way of Greater Atlanta can help you fulfill your philanthropic purpose.

#WhyWednesday: David Hsi

David Hsi, Johns Creek High School junior and Youth United board member, is taking action for the greater good. Today, hear why he’s taking his community involvement to the next level with Youth United.

Interested in learning more about Youth United? A student-led service group, Youth United develops the next generation of community champions by creating new opportunities for high school students to step up as volunteers and leaders. If you know a community-minded high schooler looking to deepen their leadership skills, stay tuned — recruitment for next year’s Youth United board begins soon!

#WhyWednesday: Ellie Munson

Ellie Munson knows that she won the birth lottery — and she’s taking a leadership role in her community to help other children have the same opportunities she benefitted from and to improve equity in education.

What’s the birth lottery? Let this Youth United of Greater Atlanta board member break it down for you.

Whether you’re passionate about improving education, health, financial stability, access to housing or filling basic needs for our community, United Way of Greater Atlanta has a way for you to get involved! Ready to get started? Start by learning more about our Child Well-Being Movement, and sign up to volunteer!

Claire Arnold started Youth United two years ago. She says she felt like there was a gap between high school-aged students and other affinity groups at United Way of Greater Atlanta.

“So many students have innovative and fresh ideas, but don’t know what to do with them,” Arnold said. “Youth United is a home for those ideas.’”

Arnold said when she was in high school, volunteering had become second nature. There were always opportunities, and she had teachers and counselors who were always encouraging her and her peers to volunteer. It was a part of her life, and she didn’t realize there were students who didn’t know they could do the same thing. So, Youth United was formed.

The service corps is open to youth in grades nine through 12. The purpose of the group is to develop the next generation of philanthropic leaders by creating unique opportunities for them to make an impact in their community. It’s a group for high school students with a passion for serving their communities.

“We have over 500 general members now, and 16 board members,” Arnold said. “They are from dozens of schools all over Atlanta. We have members from every one of [the 13 counties United Way serves].”

For many students, it’s their first time volunteering. Youth United is their first introduction to philanthropy. It’s a starting point, and a place to foster a love for giving back.

Youth United Board Member Abby Challas said she was drawn to the group because it was targeted toward high school students.

“What makes this program unique and appealing is that it’s not a one-and-done situation. It’s a recurring commitment,” Challas, a 17-year-old senior at Grady High School, said. “I liked that Youth United is a program that is aimed toward high school students that are passionate about service.”

In a city the size of Atlanta, you can drive 5 miles in any direction and encounter people across all walks of life, Challas says. She liked being able to create service projects based on need.

“I have a voice,” she said. “We [Youth United] focus on how to solve problems, and I like how we as youth can do that.”

Youth United gives teenagers a chance to make decisions and participate in projects that can have a lasting impact on their community.

“Students walk away knowing more about their community, how to give back and what United Way is,” Arnold said. “Youth United does something different for every project, and our board meets monthly to plan the projects each year. They are the ones who think through what causes to rally behind, what the real impact is and why it matters to them as teens. It’s truly a student-led organization.”

These board members select a cause they want to help—all of which are in alignment with United Way—and this year the group decided they want to further United Way’s Child Well-Being agenda, Arnold said.

United Way of Greater Atlanta announced at the end of its last strategic planning meeting the plan to improve the well-being of children across its 13-county region. United Way’s Child Well-Being Index takes 14 different child, family and community measures to determine a CWB score for a specific zip code. The CWB heat map, which is featured on unitedwayatlanta.org, ranges from green to red—red is on the low-scoring end of the spectrum.

United Way works actively to make sure zip code is no longer a barrier for children across Greater Atlanta.

“Youth United kicks off each year with our annual meal-packing party and project,” Arnold said. “We do it big with a DJ, lunch, prizes and music. This past year, we packed 500 snack packs.”

Annually, Youth United hosts the College Workshop in partnership with LINC and Young Professional Leaders. The event grows each year, providing resources to students as young as sixth grade.

“We have projects usually monthly,” Arnold said. “There is a way for a student to engage every month of the year, and students plan most of them. They give input on all of them.”

Challas is a second-year board member and one of those students who helps provide input for each project. She didn’t know anything about United Way before joining Youth United, she says, but she said the group helped her build lasting friendships.

“It’s a great experience, and it’s really rewarding being able to help other people that can’t help themselves,” Challas said. “You do make lots of friends. I would say to anyone looking to join, even if you take a leap and do this and you don’t know anybody, you’re going to end up bonding over that experience with different people.”

All high school-aged students are eligible to join, and Arnold said, “anyone with a passion for volunteering and their community will be at home with Youth United.”

“And when you become a board member, you become a part of the United Way family,” Challas said. “That’s something to be proud of. Even though I’m 17, there’s so many important, driven people out there that want to make a change, and I get to be a part of that.”

To learn more about Youth United and how to join or donate, visit www.unitedwayatlanta.org/group/youth-united.

We are excited to announce that after a highly competitive selection process, were ready to roll with this year’s new Youth United board! These 16 students are here to lead the student service movement in Atlanta. They’ll be doing intensive trainings and putting in the time to make this year’s projects better than ever!

Returning Members: 

  • Abby Challas, Senior, Grady High School
  • Mohamad Hashim, Senior, North Atlanta High School
  • Vani Senthil, Senior, Duluth High School

New Members: 

  • Askya Alexander, Senior, Grady High School
  • Ricardo Deleon, Junior, Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
  • Sanaa Edole, Junior, Woodland High School
  • Zaria Henry, Senior, Chamblee Charter High School
  • David Hsi, Junior, Johns Creek High School
  • Noa Jerryman, Senior, Carver Early College
  • Karis Johnson, Senior, Shiloh High School
  • Khushi Magiawala, Senior, Alpharetta High School
  • Andrew Maiorino, Junior, Cambridge High School
  • Swaize Meeks, Senior, McEachern High School
  • Ellie Munson, Senior, Atlanta Girls School
  • Jaylin Simmons, Senior, McNair High School
  • JT Williams, Junior, North Atlanta High School

Tell us what YOU want to see YU do this year! Reach the board at youthunited@unitedwayatlanta.org. Send us your ideas! 

“My name is Roman Bacchetta, and I’m a sophomore at Vanderbilt University. From volunteer to board member to intern, it’s been quite a journey for me with United Way. Two years ago, I applied to become a member of the inaugural Youth United board after I had the privilege of touring the United Way headquarters. I was deeply inspired by the mission and expansive outreach of the organization, but also its unique level of personability, especially in the 2-1-1 call center.

In 2016, I was fortunate to be appointed to the first Youth United board along with twelve other Atlanta high schoolers. As Youth United members, we assisted with UWGA projects like the Shoebox Project and volunteered for several local nonprofits. Most importantly, the YU board collaboratively organized its own community service and engagement projects. In order to realize our visions for these projects, we investigated the most pressing issues in our own communities, worked alongside other nonprofits and businesses, and met regularly in teams to draft and flesh out our ideas. My experience with Youth United was extremely intensive and eye-opening, and I was able to become much more familiarized with the vast scope of UWGA’s mission and operations.

The summer after my first year in college, I knew I wanted to work again with the organization, so I applied to serve as an intern. This summer, as a Regional Development Marketing and Communications intern, I worked between the UWGA branches in several counties, educated the local community about United Way projects through various social media platforms, and developed a much better sense of what it means to engage and involve my community.

To all the Youth United members, I encourage you to stay involved in your community! Give back, volunteer, share your stories and ideas. You CAN make change!”

 

Share Your Why: Jabari Baker

Youth helping youth! Jabari Baker, Youth United board member and senior at Carver Early College, joined Youth United of Atlanta because he wants to help less fortunate teenagers have a better future.

As a Youth United board member, Jabari helps lead a group of high school students from across Greater Atlanta as they put their passion for community to work through volunteer projects and leadership development opportunities. Know a high school student who might be interested? Learn more about Youth United of Atlanta.

Ready to share your story? Whether you’re a longtime community champion or are just getting started, United Way of Greater Atlanta wants to hear the why behind your passion for giving back. Share your why and inspire others just like you!

Share Your Why

Today, we’re excited to share a #WhyWednesday video featuring Lisa Bowman, Chief Marketing Officer of United Way Worldwide. Lisa joined us at the 10th annual Women’s Leadership Breakfast in November 2017, as we heard from keynote speaker Geena Davis, founder of the Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media.

At the Women’s Leadership Breakfast, Lisa took a moment to share her why with us! Hear why she’s passionate about United Way’s work to improve the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community:

 

What inspires you to give, advocate and volunteer in your community? We want to hear the cause that drives you to give back to Greater Atlanta. Share Your Why with United Way!

Share Your Why

For Ryan Heidish, Youth United board member and Alpharetta High School senior, community service is a way to make sure that everyone in Greater Atlanta has the opportunity to thrive.

In December, he shared the following on our blog: “Growing up, I have always felt fortunate to have a safe neighborhood, access to education, and enough food and water to support my needs. Having said that, I feel like it is only right to give back to the people who may not be as lucky as I am. In my opinion, everyone deserves an equal opportunity to be successful. By giving back, we can help to make that a reality; the problem that our society faces is a lack of people who realize this.”

Below, hear why he believes it’s so important to get involved in community service – especially for youth.

Opportunity. Equity. Well-being. Financial stability. Community connection. What’s your “why”? We want to know what drives you to give, advocate and volunteer for Greater Atlanta. Share Your Why with United Way!