He stood just over 3 feet tall, but a determined Zaniel Williams, 5, kept pulling with all his might on an overstuffed trash bag that stood higher and larger than him across Toledo’s Jamie Farr Park.
Like dozens of other children and youths, young Williams spent Saturday morning picking up litter at the park and making their community look nicer. The effort, which included more than 2,000 youths cleaning up various sections of the city, is part of Global Youth Service Day, an annual event sponsored by The Blade, Buckeye CableSystem, and several other businesses and organizations.
“I’m cleaning up the park,” said the 42-pound Zaniel, who proudly displayed his trash bag’s contents. “I found wrappers, paper, weeds, plastic forks, and old bottles.
“I want to be an astronaut when I get big,” he added.
PHOTO GALLERY: Global Youth Service Day
After a morning of hard work, the youth volunteers and their adult chaperones were treated to lunch and free admission to the Toledo Zoo, said Tonya Bennert, director of marketing and communication for United Way of Greater Toledo, which also helped sponsor the Global Youth Service Day.
The event provides volunteer opportunities for local youths, giving them a chance to make positive impacts on their community, Ms. Bennert said.
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Esperanza Barnosky, 15, said she volunteered to help clean up the park because it’s good to take care of your own community. Young Barnosky, an eighth grader at Riverside Elementary School, also thought performing “community service” would look good on a college application.
“I’m thinking ahead,” young Barnosky admitted. “I want to be an attorney some day.”
Kimberly Tisdale and Wenona Williams, who oversaw the students’ efforts, said many of the students they mentor live in poverty. Their roles as mentors are to encourage students to stay in school and get good grades.
“Parents and teachers often don’t tell them about goals,” Ms. Tisdale said. “The students don’t believe in themselves; they have low self-esteem.”
Having the students participate in community-service work teaches them about having pride in their community, their work, and themselves, Mrs. Williams said.
“It’s really taking ownership and pride in the community,” Mrs. Williams said. “It encourages them.”
The staff and other student volunteers at Jamie Farr Park kept praising Young Barnosky for working so hard on Saturday — she continued when other students took breaks and stopped for the day, said Ms. Tisdale and Ms. Williams. The women are both AmeriCorps graduation coaches and student mentors at River Elementary School.
Young Barnosky said she enjoyed working so hard because it proved to her that “just one person can change the world.”
Her dream is to one day be the first person in her family to attend college and become a lawyer.
“My dad is my role model,” she said. “He’s a construction worker. He helps me out and talks to me when I have problems.”
Other sponsors included The Andersons, Advanced Incentives, the Chrysler Foundation, Toledo Zoo, United Way Volunteer Center, and Keep Toledo/Lucas County Beautiful.
Contact Federico Martinez at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6154.