PeerCorps volunteers weed garden beds at Keep Growing Detroit, which is one of their service partners during the year.
PeerCorps volunteers weed garden beds at Keep Growing Detroit, which is one of their service partners during the year.

Meet two teens who actively volunteer with Repair the World’s PeerCorps High program.

Jillian Vondell, 16, of Bloomfield Hills and Naveen Jackson, 16, of Commerce Township have both been nominated by the Repair the World for their active participation in PeerCorps High Detroit, the nonprofit’s teen service-learning program.

“Jillian and Naveen have been a wonderful addition to our PeerCorps cohort last year,” said Brittany Feldman, Youth and Family senior program associate for Repair the World.

“Jillian is very passionate about social justice issues that impact her community, such as the climate crisis and food insecurity. In addition to being a part of PeerCorps High, she also started a club at her school through a nonprofit organization called Girls Who Code, which aims to support and increase the number of women in the computer science field.”
This isn’t the first year Jillian has been involved with the PeerCorps program. She says she first learned about it when she was getting volunteer hours for her bat mitzvah.

Jillian, left, and other volunteers sort seeds and create plantable seed strips in a community garden in Detroit.
Jillian, left, and other volunteers sort seeds and create plantable seed strips in a community garden in Detroit.

“I was volunteering with Repair the World, so I quickly learned about the program,” Jillian explained.

“Then, in high school, I decided to join the program and have been involved for the past two years. And I hope to continue it throughout the rest of my high school career.”

Throughout her PeerCorps experience Jillian says she’s learned about different kinds of volunteer opportunities throughout the community and says she would like to work with some of the organizations partners like Keep Growing Detroit again.

Jillian’s mom, Caren Vondell, says while her daughter is active in a lot of activities in school, she keeps PeerCorps high on her priorities.

At Elu V’Elu, teens learn about a social issue topic.
At Elu V’Elu, teens learn about a social issue topic.

“Volunteering in a Jewish organization that helps in Detroit gives her a feeling of community, involvement, importance and accomplishment different than rowing and dance and theater at school. She likes having something separated from her immediate school community that’s also important to her.”

Naveen, who’s also active in his school activities and sports, says he always makes time for PeerCorps.

“I’m involved with the NHS (National Honors Society) at school where I’m required to get service hours,” Naveen said.

“But the service hours I would do in our community would be with school drives or a company or something. With PeerCorps, I get to choose some of my opportunities, and I feel better about the volunteer experience because I get to help people directly in Detroit.”
Naveen learned about PeerCorps while he was in middle school when he was an active member at Temple Shir Shalom and started volunteering in programs when he was in seventh grade. Now, as a high schooler, Naveen continues to dedicate his time to PeerCorps.

“Naveen attended the most sessions out of all our teens, which was amazing considering he is extremely active in extracurriculars at school,” Feldman added.

“His dedication to showing up each month and giving his all at our learning sessions and our volunteer opportunities is truly inspiring.”

Naveen Jackson helps pack PPE kits for Brilliant Detroit, another PeerCorps High service partner organization.
Naveen Jackson helps pack PPE kits for Brilliant Detroit, another PeerCorps High service partner organization.

Naveen says there are a lot of opportunities throughout the year to get involved in and that it’s always different. He encourages other teens to get involved if they can.

“We have done things with a local food pantry, and we get to work with our hands on a community farm or garden,” Naveen explained. “In the past, I have worked on renovation projects and worked with small businesses in Eastern Market.”

The volunteer experiences are never boring and always are a good experience, Naveen added. He hopes to continue volunteering and helping the community throughout his life.
Naveen’s dad, Bruce Jackson, says he’s always tried to teach the value in giving back.

“We have tried to instill in Naveen the importance of being a complete person, that to live a meaningful life he needs to be of service to others. I think his participation in PeerCorps shows that he has been listening,” Jackson said.

PeerCorps High is thrilled to have Jillian and Naveen back on their cohort this year.

If you’re interested in joining PeerCorps High, you can apply at www.tfaforms.com/5008734. Applications are open until Sept. 29.
To learn more about Repair the World and its programs head to werepair.org.

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