Truly effective and inspiring leaders aren’t actually driven to lead people; they are driven to serve them. – Simon Sinek

My teenage daughter and I attended an event today where the Junior League of Annapolis, Inc set up volunteers at a local nonprofit, the Chesapeake Children’s Museum, as they prepare for Hispanic Heritage Month/ Big Read Literacy Event.  The entire month, Sept 10-Oct 20, 2017, is FILLED with so many amazing events and opportunities for the community to celebrate and learn more about Hispanic heritage and receive resources that support literacy!

I’ve been a member of the Junior League of Annapolis, Inc (JLA) since 2004 and have been so honored to be part of events such as these in our community!  Now, being a mother to a teen, I take every opportunity I can to share these experiences and opportunities with her so she can also see what an impact just a few hours of community service can have! We had a fun afternoon making pinatas for the children to break open to find small prizes and also helped create pamphlets to give out to the public about the event. I can’t tell you how great I felt about all this; giving back the community, helping this very special organization, and sharing it all with my daughter!

It turned out that they actually had the two projects, pinatas and pamphlets, they needed us to work on for the day. While everyone gathered at the table to do the pinatas, I volunteered to go upstairs and work on the pamphlets since it was the “less creative” work; I actually really enjoyed the quiet work. I was happy there were other tasks that needed to be done and thankful we had enough hands to help out as much as we could!

Now, as if the experiences up to this point weren’t enough to just make today an overall GREAT day…I had the absolute pleasure of meeting an outstanding individual whose personal story, innate goodness and unbelievable selflessness and leadership was not only an honor to meet, but just an inspiration to be around!

Meet, Ava.  Ava is from Glen Burnie, Maryland.  “Look at you!”, she exclaimed as she approached the table where I was sitting, seeing me with an old rusty paper cutter carefully trimming margins off the papers I had just put together. She commented at how fast I was working by myself. She pulled up a chair to join me and we got to work! We sat together and assembled pamphlets that would be distributed to the public about the Hispanic Heritage Month and Big Read. We folded, cut, added the binding and then organized the pamphlets so that they would be ready to go. In the time we sat and busily worked, I learned that Ava and her younger sister were homeschooled. Ava’s sister went on to work in the medical field and Ava was still attending college where she is pursuing a degree in History with hopes of someday becoming a librarian.  I asked her what brought her to the Chesapeake Children’s Museum, and she shared that it was actually her first time volunteering with the organization.  She was so excited to get the call that she was needed as she had submitted her application to volunteer a few weeks ago and just really wanted to help!

:::: LOUD SIGH:::: Faith restored!!!  There ARE young adults that really want to help! 

I asked her if she was getting volunteer hours for a class or if she was with an organization.  She said that she had been required a long time ago to do volunteer hours for a class, but not this time, and that she wasn’t affiliated with any organization.  She was just volunteering on her own and she was happy to have found a place that needed her.  She went on to share that she’s actually quite introverted and she just really enjoyed giving back to her community and doing what she could to help.

We talked about her dreams and goals, love for working with and supporting others and her work with her church; she volunteers with middle school students (she should get a gold star/hero award for that!) and that she loved spending time doing volunteer work when she wasn’t studying or working. As she worked diligently and carefully, happily sharing about her experiences and asking questions about my work, my children and my experiences of working with the community, I couldn’t help but feel an intense pride to be sitting there with such an incredible individual.  I offered her some advice on how to build her portfolio, add to her resume and also encouraged her to get documentation of her volunteer experiences and when necessary ask for a letter of recommendation.  I prodded further about her inquiries to volunteer.  She expressed to me that so many of her peers were off getting higher ed. degrees and while they had a lot of education to add to their resumes, they really didn’t have any experience.  They had no knowledge of how the world really worked or how things got done. She felt that her volunteer experiences gave her so much more than what could be found in classrooms and textbooks. She was learning about all kinds of people, environments, needs and various aspects of the community.  HOW WISE!  I was so impressed by her and her perspective on what it takes to really KNOW LIFE!  What she was missing though was understanding just how much this frame of mind would really propel her to be a successful leader in ANY and ALL aspects of life she chooses!

The more we talked about how these volunteer experiences would help create opportunities for her. I shared with her the importance of keeping documentation of her experiences.  She blushed and asked if she could quickly make a note in her iPhone.  She hadn’t thought of how her volunteer work could help her resume or even how it could possibly open doors for her future employment!  I encouraged her to look for mentors and people that could write letters of recommendation for her and to also look for ways her volunteer work could link to her long-term goals in her career.

As we wrapped up our time together, she thanked me for the tips.  I said, “You’re welcome, but I’d like to ask you something.  Would you be open to me writing about you in my leadership blog? You’ve really inspired me and I want to share your story and what I’ve learned from you today.”  She BLUSHED and laughed, “Me?  Really?  Yes!  You’ll have to send me what you write.  Thank you so much for the talk, the support and the incredible compliment.”

I’m not going to lie, I was choking back tears.

A older woman, another volunteer, walked by and said, “This is so wonderful.  You know she’s been here for HOURS.  She must have gotten here at lunch time! She’s been a blessing to work alongside!”

Ava was gentle in spirit.  She was kind and so respectful and SO open to learn. Her leadership skills weren’t highlighted on a giant poster board proclaiming, “Look at me, I have a vision and I’m a on mission to succeed!”  Her leadership whispered softly in service, “Look at you!  You can do great things, and I’m here to help you see it through”. I’d be willing to bet that Ava doesn’t wake up every day and wonder what she could do make herself great. Her entire demeanor and attitude showed that she approaches the world with the idea that she’s there to serve and support others, so that they may be great. That’s leadership.

Ava, you’ve touched lives; young and old. Your service and commitment will not go unnoticed throughout the community and it has definitely left a imprint on my heart. You set out to make the world a better place and I have no doubt in my mind that you will do just that!

For more information about Chesapeake Children’s Museum, visit http://www.theccm.org and for more information about the Junior League of Annapolis, Inc visit http://www.jlannapolis.org

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