"Realize that you're making a huge impact on people's lives, even if you're taking baby steps."
Aubre Lehman, 16, of Garden Plain, Kansas, is planning to open a teen center where young people in her community can have fun in a safe environment.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
Aubre: I am planning to start a teen center in my local town. I'm a part of KAYs (Kansas Association for Youth), SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), and I volunteer at local hospital.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Aubre: I would like the name to be "Alternatives." This would be located in Garden Plain, KS. There is no set name or address yet. We have inquired about renting a building.
Tell us about the project, especially who benefits from this work.
Aubre: I wrote a letter to the mayor to explain why Garden Plain is in need of a teen center. Then I was invited to speak at a city council meeting and a chamber of commerce meeting. We would like to host community events at the city park, such as mini concerts, dances, movie nights, and holiday fun nights. The project will be set up as a teen center in a teen-controlled, adult-supervised environment. There is already interest from local residents who would like to get involved when we open the teen center. Young people will mainly benefit from this, but their parents will also benefit because they won't have to worry about their son or daughter getting into trouble.
What inspired you to get involved?
Aubre: I was inspired by the lack of activities for teens and kids to do in this town. I was also inspired by my younger brother, who is 13. I want him and his friends to be able to have fun in a controlled environment with kids their age.
How did you first get involved? Through school? Your parents? Give us some details.
Aubre: My friend and I had the idea. One day, my mother encouraged us to pursue our dreams and take it to the next level. That is when I wrote a letter to the mayor.
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Aubre: Currently, the best part of my experience is receiving support and encouragement from friends, family, and the community.
What is/was the hardest part?
Aubre: The hardest part right now is finding a building to open a teen center. Also, planning the next steps. Right now, we are working on a nonprofit business plan.
What was the biggest surprise?
Aubre: One of the biggest surprises was a local resident who was willing to rent his old shoe repair shop to us for a teen center.
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
Aubre: I have learned that opening a building and getting this kind of project started is a much more difficult task than I ever thought it would be. I have also learned to be patient and persevere no matter what.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Aubre: Make sure you set goals and enjoy what you're doing. Volunteering and philanthropic work should make you a better person. Realize that you're making a huge impact on people's lives, even if you're taking baby steps.
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