By Wei Ren-Finaly and Debbie Theriault
Two College Park East teens, members of the Junior Volunteers, recently won the PVSA Gold Award. Both Jeremy Finaly and Hayden Vong were recognized for their exemplary commitment to service in 2020. Here’s the background. The College Park East Neighborhood Association was established to preserve the quality of life, and to promote community spirit and comradery among its residents.
For more than 28 years, the organization has upheld this commitment by hosting community events at Heather Park and the North Seal Beach Community Center.
Most of the events have been for families and children under 12, leaving CPE teens without any discernible way to remain aligned with CPENA or connected closely to the community. Having identified this demographic as an area of focus, the CPENA Board came up with a service-oriented group for CPE teens, now in its second year, known as the Junior Volunteers. The group was established towards the end of 2019 and was made available to students ranging from grades 8 – 12. In addition to offering continuity for kids in the community, the Junior Volunteers serves as a vehicle used to make meaningful connections in the neighborhood, while offering valuable skills/experiences to help prepare them for adult life and future careers. Additionally, students involved in service work generally benefit from higher self-esteem and lower levels of depression than people who are not involved in service. The Junior Volunteers offer its members a unique opportunity near home for independence, accountability and responsibility; these important principles help build confidence and offers students a sense of empowerment. Our hope is the experience will offer participants a greater chance to make meaningful strides at developing the skills necessary to lead happy, productive lives in the future.
Due to the recent pandemic, many volunteer activities were cancelled in 2020. In spite of challenging circumstances, the now 10-member teen volunteer group orchestrated a contactless “Summer Shoe Drive” and ultimately raised $1,400 for the community! Their volunteer efforts & personal contributions were also instrumental to the success of the CPENA’s “Ice Cream Social Distancing” event last July 4th and the community Shredding Event held in CPE this Spring.
In 2003, the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation founded the President’s Volunteer Service Award to recognize the important role of volunteers in America’s strength and national identity. This award honors individuals whose service positively impacts communities in every corner of the nation and inspires those around them to take action too. Last year, the CPENA qualified as a certifying organization of this special award and is proud to announce two of their Junior Volunteers qualified for the PVSA Gold Award, which requires a minimum contribution of 100 hours within a given year. Both Jeremy Finaly and Hayden Vong were freshmen in 2020-2021 and will be starting their sophomore year at Los Alamitos High School in the fall. We extend a hearty Congratulations to these exceptional citizens and hope to award more of our Junior Volunteers next year. For information on how to get involved, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.