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Shining the Light on our Partnership with Michigan’s LEO Team of Volunteers


April recognizes all those who give their time and energy to others during National Volunteer Month. This focus on volunteering was originally established in Canada in 1943 as a way to pay tribute to the unwavering contributions of women during World War II. National Volunteer Week debuted in the United States in1974 and later grew to become National Volunteer Month.

As a nonprofit organization, Youth Solutions relies on volunteers at our youth leadership events including the Career Development Conference (CDC), where youth have an opportunity to gain skills that prepare them for future careers. Volunteers make it possible to impact more of Michigan’s youth than we would be capable of serving on our own.

Although we are grateful for all our volunteers who hail from many different organizations, this month we are shining a light on the volunteers from the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity - LEO.

Since 2014 the connection between Youth Solutions and LEO has grown from both a financial and partnership standpoint. The purpose of our organization - Inspiring and connecting youth to achieve a future beyond imagination - is very much aligned with the mission of LEO, which is to expand economic opportunity and prosperity for all. Chelsea Mates, LEO State Administrative Manager, attributes this strong alignment between our two organizations to a passion to help youth overcome barriers to success. Because their team has a passion for public service, supporting other organizations and helping them to be prosperous, the connection between our two organizations has grown organically. “When you think of our involvement, it’s often thought of in terms of financial and policy support. Time is definitely a resource as well. Volunteering for Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates (JMG) events gives our team the chance to step outside of the day-to-day and connect more directly with the end user of our programs,” said Mates. Volunteering encourages her team to think about the people behind the policy.

Mahatma Gandhi said “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service of others.”

Closing equity gaps is one of the guiding focuses for LEO. “Seeing the youth who participate in these programs, benefitting from the work experiences they’ve gained, and knowing our resources have contributed to it, is really special. Volunteering at the JMG CDC is always one of the best days of the year,” commented Mates.

There is a mutual appreciation between the team at Youth Solutions and LEO. “We are grateful for the time and talent that the team from LEO contribute to our events. They are among the first to sign up to volunteer at the CDC and are always eager to support our team with a growing number of volunteers every year,” said Sonya Blanzy, Deputy Director of Youth Solutions. She went on to say, “we wouldn't be nearly as successful or have the reach we do without their support and the strong partnership we've developed over the years.”

Even though there are many “hands on deck” to make our events run smoothly, we would be remiss if we didn’t specifically recognize Erin Walker, LEO’s Youth Specialist who administers the grant that supports Youth Solutions. Both Mates and Blanzy wanted to recognize the passion Erin has for her work. Thank you for all that you do, Erin!

Volunteering has many benefits. It can provide a healthy boost to your self-confidence, add to your self-esteem, improve life satisfaction and knowing that you are doing something good for others in the community provides a natural sense of pride. If you are interested in getting involved with Youth Solutions by volunteering or donating, you can learn more here.

What has been your experience volunteering? Share your memories of volunteering on our social media channels: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter.


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