Summertime is crucial for Mercy Housing youth, since most are out of school while their parents are working. Summer programming provides opportunities to learn and grow. The Youth Leadership program at Driftwood Estates in Rapid City, South Dakota is giving kids a chance to give back to their community this summer. “The program’s theme is where and how can we show compassion in our community,” says Resident Services Coordinator Shannon Maher. The 15 students, fourth through ninth graders, jumped at the opportunity to volunteer with the local Humane Society when they were asked what organization they wanted to volunteer for. They enjoy writing thank you letters to owners of newly adopted pets. This program also builds leadership for older students as they get to help teachers with the younger kids, providing guidance and supervision for activities.
Not only do the kids volunteer for the Humane Society, the program includes art classes every Tuesday and lunch is provided twice per month at the community center during the summer months. Additionally, the kids put care baskets together for the Oglala Pet Project at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This nonprofit supports the community members to care for animals and improve quality of life for pets.
The students even formed a group, Driftwood Cares, where they pick up litter around Driftwood Estates and cool down with ice cream afterward. The opportunity to engage with the community by choosing, then volunteering with an organization of interest, is an incredibly rewarding and empowering experience for these youth.