Encourage teens to give back

Published 11:10 pm Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Nowadays, the current school-aged population, especially high schoolers, gets a nasty reputation for being lazy, entitled and self-serving, and most people seem to believe that teens and tweens would rather poke out their own eyes than volunteer.

But here in Suffolk, there is a multitude of teens working to improve their community.

During the course of four months, a group of Girl Scouts, all 12 to 13 years old, dedicated its time to help out a horse therapy center in Smithfield.

Email newsletter signup

The girls worked at the Horses Helping Heroes farm for four days during August, painting fences and gates, cleaning horse equipment and even cleaning stalls.

Debi Demick, the executive director of the group, said she was stunned by how hard these girls worked during their time at the farm.

But the girls didn’t stop there.

They returned last month to help close the facility for the winter and donate dozens of handmade ornaments for disabled veterans spending their holidays in a medical center.

And what was the incentive for these girls to offer all this work? A small silver pin to place on their vests.

It’s not much of an incentive, but it is obvious these girls get enough of a reward from knowing they are making a difference.

Also, another teenager from Troop 5292, based out of Driver, recently received the Gold Award, the highest honor for Girl Scouts.

To earn her award, Megan Coston, a senior at Nansemond River High School, worked for more than a year planning and adding a butterfly garden at Driver Elementary School.

She developed the idea herself, worked with the school and its PTA, found sponsors to help fund the project, and completed the garden by herself.

Coston said she did it, because she wanted to make a place for the students to be able to enjoy nature and learn about the world around them.

But the Girl Scouts aren’t the only ones helping their community.

This weekend, 20 students from the Nansemond River High School Beta Club picked up litter on Shoulders Hill and Sleepy Hole roads.

The group worked with the Shoulders Hill Hunt Club, which adopted the roads, to complete the less-than-glamorous job.

The students approached the Hunt Club to help out; they weren’t prompted or given any incentive. They simply did it to help out.

It’s wonderful these students have learned through groups like the Girl Scouts and Beta Club how important it is to give back to their communities.

Sometimes people hesitate to volunteer, because there isn’t anything in it for them.

But through these groups and other adults, they can see the incentive to volunteer is to improve life for everyone in the area, including for themselves.

It is essential for residents to show these teenagers their work is noticed and appreciated, so they will be encouraged and continue to make a difference.

It’s wonderful to see dedicated teenagers helping others and trying to make Suffolk — and the world — a better place, and everyone should take the time to say thank you.