August Project Leader Spotlight: Raul Garcia

By Amanda Hoffman

Since he first started volunteering with HandsOn Broward, 17-year old Raul Garcia knew that he wanted to lead a project.  “Becoming a project leader was my ambition from the beginning.”

Raul was primarily interested in finding a volunteer organization with leadership opportunities because he’s trying to get into the Air Force Academy.  The military has always attracted Raul. “I like the sense of leadership and the sense of dedication. The focus, the leadership.”

After volunteering with Feeding South Florida, Raul knew he was ready to lead a project of his own. He got in touch with the Not My Kids organization, a mentoring program for at-risk youth in Broward County and led a project for them.

“The first time I went there were about six girls in the room and they were doing all sorts of projects. It was kind of like a summer camp but it was also a mentoring program. The day I went, the girls had a project writing letters to women in the military. So, because of my interest in the military and my knowledge about it, I went in an explained it to the girls.”

Even though it was slightly nerve-wracking for Raul to lead his own project, he was cool, calm and collected. “I’ve led a lot for my schools. I’ve been involved in student government and I’m a freshman coordinator.”

Raul is working hard to accomplish his dreams. He already has 200 service hours, and he has applied to be a member of the Civil Air Patrol, an organization similar to JROTC, but it has its own rankings and members can go on mock military missions. Since his interest in the military sparked, Raul has lost over 50 pounds.

However, getting admission into the Air Force Academy is a long, tough road. “In some ways, it’s harder to get into than Harvard. I have to get Senator and Congress recommendation letters.”

There are a lot of people that want to see Raul succeed. “I get most of my support from my mom. She wants to see me get my hours. Most of the applicants have 2,000 hours.”

For new project leaders, Raul offers this advice: “be ready going into your project. Know what you’re coordinating. If you go in and the people you’re leading know more about it than you do, they’re not going to let you lead them. Just know what you’re doing.”

Thank you, Raul and good luck with your dreams!

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Local Teens Make an Impact through Countywide Service

Summer is a critical out-of-school time when children and teens can benefit from enriched learning, new experiences and making new friends.  In Broward, one organization’s summer programs served up plenty of inspiration to 60 teens who not only found new friendships, but made a difference for Broward communities.

Natalie Martinez, Emma Roberts and Angelo Narvaez help clear park trails and remove invasive plant species from Snyder Park in Fort Lauderdale

Natalie Martinez, Emma Roberts and Angelo Narvaez help clear park trails and remove invasive plant species from Snyder Park in Fort Lauderdale

The local volunteer mobilization hub, HandsOn Broward, hosted two youth programs this month to provide young people with meaningful service and in-depth learning experiences surrounding critical community issues.  Through the Youth Action Corps and Summer Service Camp programs, the teens served a combined 2,400 hours to positively impact seven local nonprofit organizations.

From July 30 through August 3, twenty young leaders joined HandsOn Broward’s Youth Action Corps. The program gave teens the opportunity to participate in GenerationOn’s goLEAD (Leadership Education and Development) Institute.  Participants focused on leadership and teamwork as they planned a capstone service project to benefit local military members.

Youth Action Corps members Blanca Mendez and Jonathan Howard build a tower as part of a leadership exercise

Youth Action Corps members Blanca Mendez and Jonathan Howard build a tower as part of a leadership exercise

“Through the program, I learned that being a leader is more than just giving orders to people or commanding a group,” said Youth Action Corps member Devi Lakhlani, 15, from Davie.  “I learned that leadership is about knowing when to step up as well as when to step down and let others lead.”

Youth Action Corps training was followed by the week-long Summer Service Camp, where campers participated in hands-on projects that benefited local nonprofit organizations.  Service activities included:

  • digital literacy mentoring and arts and crafts with the seniors at Northeast Focal Point Senior Center in Deerfield Beach,
  • painting and landscape beautification at Ann Storck Center in Fort Lauderdale,
  • serving food to residents at Broward Outreach Center in Pompano Beach,
  • native habitat revitalization at Snyder Park in Fort Lauderdale, and
  • group projects at Greater Horizons Academy in Lauderhill, where the youth planted a butterfly garden and worked with local children to make cat and dog toys for the animals at Abandoned Pet Rescue.

“Summer Camp helped me find the voice inside of me and showed me that everyone has the ability to be a leader,” said camper Alexia Pinajian, 13, of Coral Springs.

Summer Camper Rougiena Deriviere shares her computer skills with Carol Hazelwood and Mary German at Northeast Focal Point in Deerfield Beach

Summer Camper Rougiena Deriviere shares her computer skills with Carol Hazelwood and Mary German at Northeast Focal Point in Deerfield Beach

The week-long programs are offered annually by HandsOn Broward and cover a diverse array of community issues, from the environment to homelessness, hunger and animal protection.  Students are able to develop solutions to community problems by working together in hands-on service activities.

“We believe every child needs to know that they can make a difference in the world, and indeed they can,” said Dale Hirsch, CEO of HandsOn Broward. “Our summer youth programs are able to highlight what can happen when you ignite a powerful movement of young change agents who become inspired through service to communities.”

Brooke Aiello paints decorative ceiling tiles for the Ann Storck Center in Fort Lauderdale

Brooke Aiello paints decorative ceiling tiles for the Ann Storck Center in Fort Lauderdale

In addition to the valuable learning experiences, student participants earned 45 community service hours that can be used toward their high school service requirement.  Individuals interested in learning more about upcoming youth program activities can contact HandsOn Broward at contactus@handsonbroward.org.  HandsOn Broward also offers hundreds of opportunities to volunteers of all ages year-round through their volunteer opportunities calendar at www.handsonbroward.org.