Mandy Copa, 14, has learned early in life that volunteering in her community not only makes her feel good, but makes others happy as well.
Copa, who aspires to become a professional singer or a teacher, was chosen as the 2001 Outstanding Youth Volunteer of the Year. She will be honored, along with other outstanding community members, at the Distinguished Service Awards banquet, which starts at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Brainerd National Guard Armory.
When Copa was in sixth grade, a friend introduced her to the youth intern program through Lutheran Social Service, she said. Through the program, she has helped clean Crow Wing State Park and the grounds outside the women's shelter, and helped clean toys for Lutheran Social Service. She's been a teacher's aide at St. Francis School and now volunteers one hour each weekday morning in the office at Mississippi Horizons.
While involved with the youth intern program, Copa went before Youth As Resources, a Brainerd teen and adult committee that awards grants to youth-based programs and events, to apply for a grant. YAR director Judy Kidder encouraged Copa to become a YAR board member. Now Copa serves as co-director of YAR.
"I guess I just really like that I can make people laugh or share a good smile," said Copa. "The main reason I like volunteering is to help other people. Sometimes when I get really bored or upset about something, it helps me get over it to make someone happy."
Copa also has been active for the past two years with the Timber Bay program, volunteering as a junior counselor at the camp. She is also involved with the senior high after school group and life skills group where she is a positive role model for the other students, said Jann Rhubee, Timber Bay Outreach Coordinator who nominated Copa for the 2001 Outstanding Youth Volunteer of the Year award.
In addition to her service work, Copa is trying to start a youth task force in her community of Barrows in an attempt to get children and the community more connected, said Kidder. She helped at a community Halloween party last year.
"There's really not a lot you can do in Barrows," said Copa.
Copa's English teacher is helping her write her acceptance speech for the Nov. 19 Distinguished Service Awards banquet.
"It's an accomplishment. It means I did something and people actually noticed it," said Copa, of her award. "Most of the time that doesn't happen."
Copa hopes other teens will see what a difference volunteering has made in her life, and volunteer themselves.
"Even though you don't get paid for volunteering, the reward is tremendous," she said. "It's such a great feeling to help other people out. It can be fun, too. You can even bring a friend along."
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