‘This is a great generation:’ Teenagers serve their communities for Global Youth Service Day

Youth package meals, clean up schools and parks, serve meals, sandbag and take part in multiple service projects through JustServe

An invitation for teenagers to serve in their communities for Global Youth Service Day was answered en masse. In locations around the United States and Canada, teenagers found opportunities to do something to help others in need.

In one of the largest projects, almost 400 teens from Southern California gathered at a meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Saturday, April 29, to package oatmeal with Harvest Pack. 

They came from more than 50 different high schools and worked in assembly line fashion around tables.

“I think it’s really cool to help other people in need that can’t do it for themselves,” said Myles McBride, a 10th grader. 

The teams at each table worked in friendly competition against each other as they scooped, measured and packaged. “Everyone is smiling,” Daniela Pierce said. “Just put on some music, and we are ready to work.”

Volunteers participate in a Global Youth Service Day hosted by JustServe in Aliso Viejo, California, on April 29, 2023.
Volunteers participate in a Global Youth Service Day hosted by JustServe in Aliso Viejo, California, on April 29, 2023. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Global Youth Service Day is the largest annual celebration of young volunteers, and it was marked from April 28-30 this year. 

JustServe — a website and app where volunteers can find service opportunities — promoted the event and then showcased some of the Global Youth Service Day projects on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

In Massachusetts, youth got together to document gravestones for BillionGraves. In Arizona and Nevada, teenagers volunteered to sandbag in communities facing potential flooding. Teens also picked up trash on a school campus in Nevada, cleared out gutters in Utah and cleaned up a neighborhood park in Montana.

Tennessee volunteers held a shoe drive for refugees in the Nashville area, and the project continued through the rest of the week. In New Hampshire, youth made blankets for a women’s center.

In Texas, more than 100 volunteers sorted books, stocked the pantry and painted walls at a community nonprofit. Other teenagers left positive messages, notes and compliments to inspire high school students taking state tests the next day. And an interfaith event in north Texas included Muslims and Latter-day Saints serving together.

In Canada, volunteers helped run a community carnival at a food pantry in Edmonton —some ran the carnival while others distributed food to those in need. In Regina a group of friends got together to serve a meal downtown. And in Calgary, teens picked up trash and felt a stronger hope for the world.

“This is a great generation,” said Kristin Samuelian, a Church communications director in Newport Beach, California. “Youth thrive on connection. When you offer them opportunities to give back, they show up in record numbers.”

Global Youth Service Day inspired many youth to find ways to keep serving. Henry Wade, a teen who attended the food-packaging service project in Southern California, said he learned about it when he had a substitute teacher who was a JustServe representative. Now he is looking forward to being a founding member of a JustServe club at his high school next year.

The Church’s Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé once said JustServe is more than a program or website —  “It is a movement and a way that we can live our covenants.”

Elder Mark A. Mortensen, an Area Seventy in California, said he has seen that movement grow in his area.

“We started with just a few high schools, but when others heard what was happening, they wanted to be a part of it. We now have 26 high school clubs established involving thousands of youth, with many more getting ready to begin. It is miraculous to see the blessings that flow as we show our love for Him by serving and loving our neighbors.”

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