The council’s first term in 2020 proved to be a great success and members wanted to continue their progress.
For the JARC Teen Action Council, action is what sparks meaningful community connections. Even with the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, the council was able to meld their young, creative minds to find ways to connect with and bring joy to the lives of JARC persons served — and this is why they were chosen as the Volunteers of the Week.
The council was started in 2020 when longtime JARC volunteer Andrew Tukel considered the impact that isolation would have on JARC persons served. He teamed up with JARC Community Engagement Manager Jessica Tierney to form the council with the goal of providing persons served with substantial and fun programming despite the health restrictions.
The council’s first term in 2020 proved to be a great success and members wanted to continue their progress. The second term was made possible thanks to the Stephen H. Schulman Millennium Fund for Jewish Youth grant.
“One of the things we were talking about was how can we do programs that will still be meaningful that aren’t just, let’s be on a Zoom together,” Tukel said.
Among the teens’ proudest accomplishments was their holiday gift bag distribution program. Each of the 19 council members paired up with a few JARC persons served and developed a connection over multiple phonecalls. After getting to know the person served and their interests, the teens went out and created a gift basket of a few of the person’s favorite things and delivered them to their house to spread some holiday cheer.
“We stood outside on the porch a little bit apart,” Tukel said. “It was amazing. Every time I did it, it was just an amazing feeling as they opened the bag and loved whatever you brought them.”
JARC Teen Action Council member Shayla Mostyn echoed Tukel’s excitement about the project.
“I went over to her house to drop off the package and introduced myself as the girl who was talking with her on the phone, and she was just so happy to see me — her smile lit up,” Mostyn said. “I said, ‘This is for you,’ and she didn’t know what it was. But then, when she opened it, she was like, ‘These are all my favorites. I’m so glad you listened!’”
In addition to large group service projects, the council split up into teams to work on smaller projects. Tukel said he and his small group planned an event where teens and persons served decorated challah covers together over Zoom.
Finally, the council got to hear from a wide variety of guest speakers and engage in leadership training. Mostyn said getting an American Sign Language lesson from JARC persons served, with the help of an ASL interpreter, was a particularly eye-opening experience.
“In order to communicate, you don’t just need to talk to somebody, you need to find a common language,” Mostyn said. “And just doing that is simple enough. I think the more we connect with each other, we will be one step closer to unity in the world.”
While Mostyn and Tukel will no longer serve on the council as they go off to college next year, they both highly recommend the experience to any high schoolers who want to grow as leaders and make a difference in the community. The third JARC Teen Action Council term starts in September 2022.
If you are in high school and interested in joining, please reach out to Jessica Tierney at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (248) 940-2607.