Posted Thursday, May 25, 2023 12:00 am
By Shaun Ryan
On Tuesday, May 16, the link held its Teen Volunteer Appreciation event to thank the approximately 75 local teenagers who helped with programs over the past year.
The link, located at 425 Town Plaza Ave. in Nocatee, is an award-winning smart building at the forefront of embracing technology for smart work spaces, event spaces and experiences.
It hosts a number of events that give volunteers an opportunity to serve their community and earn volunteer hours, which they can use toward National Honor Society, Bright Futures Scholarships, ROTC and more.
Jeff Tawney, director of operations, oversaw the volunteer program.
“These dedicated volunteers play a crucial role in our organization by helping us organize and execute various events and conferences, such as Kids Night Out, summer camps, EnterCircle and more,” Tawney said.
Last year, the summer camp program alone generated about 3,600 volunteer hours. The Kids Night Out program generated an additional 1,600 hours. This year’s volunteers were students at Allen D. Nease, Beachside, Ponte Vedra and Tocoi Creek high schools.
“Witnessing the growth and transformation if these remarkable young people is truly inspiring,” said Tawney. “Through their involvement, they gain confidence, acquire valuable new skills and undergo the transition into responsible young adults.”
Lauren Wenzloff, a graduating senior at Nease, had been volunteering with the link since December 2020.
“I would say this place has definitely given me the leadership skills that I have developed over the last few years, to the point where I was promoted to a lead volunteer,” she said. Helping to run the kids’ programs has proven beneficial to Lauren, who is planning a career in pediatric nursing.
Sisters Maggie and Hannah Seifart, grades eight and 10 respectively, volunteered with various summer camps, such as robotics, dance and culinary.
“It was a lot of fun,” Hannah said.
They also helped with after-camp care, where some kids stay and have fun until their parents can pick them up.
“I think it’s really been good just being able to watch the kids and become more of a leader,” Maggie said. “I definitely think it taught me patience with kids,” Hannah added. She has been babysitting for many years, but learning to manage larger groups of kids has proven beneficial to her. In addition, she said volunteering helped her learn time management.
Emre Ulger, a graduating senior at Nease, volunteered with the cooking camps and after-camp care, as well as Kids Night Out, where he got to play games with the kids. He said he especially liked getting to know the other volunteers.
“Everyone was nice,” he said.
Like the others, he said the experience helped him develop his leadership skills. In fact, in response to a questionnaire, the teens said the experience helped them become leaders and learn patience and understanding.
Asked if they would recommend the link to others, 100% responded with a yes. Parents and teens interested in the link’s volunteer opportunities can send an email to email@example.com.