President Obama and Young Americans

For the Win: What Are You Passionate About?

For the Win is a guest blog series featuring the remarkable initiatives that young Americans are advancing to win the future for their communities. Each week we highlight a new young person and learn about their inspiring work through their own words. Submit your story to appear in the For the Win guest blog series.

Ashlee Kephart was recently nominated for the 2011 L’Oreal Women of Worth program. Points of Light partners with L’Oreal to celebrate “Women of Worth” for their inspiring devotion to service. Ashlee founded the nonprofit, Kids For A Better World, Inc., to encourage the empowerment of youth.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE! It only takes one smile, one encouragement, one hand, one listening ear, to give hope and value to another. You can take something you are passionate about, like music, gardening or books, and turn it into a program to serve others. I believe that everyone has something important to contribute; there is no contribution too small or insignificant.  

A volunteer giving their time and talents brings societies together and unifies humanity. By celebrating our differences and embracing our similarities, we not only become unique individuals, we also stay connected to one another. I founded Kids For A Better World, Inc., a nonprofit organization to encourage the empowerment of youth.  When youth are encouraged to use their skills and talents in ways that serve others they learn how to look beyond themselves, to see the possibilities and create change.

Ashlee Kephart

Ashlee Kephart. (Photo from Points of Light Institute)

As a leader, I want to inspire and motivate others to see what is possible by bringing communities together and enabling individuals to live peaceful and productive lives. I believe volunteering is an important step in developing character and enriching society as a whole. Opportunity is the key. The youth of today are facing a variety of challenges. Many are trapped in a cycle of violence, poverty and a lack of opportunities, all contributing to a sense of worthlessness and hopelessness for the future. They need opportunities to express themselves in positive ways. These opportunities increase self-worth and through service one becomes a productive member of society.

Volunteering provides me with opportunities to make a difference and challenges my abilities and skills.  When I’m helping others, I not only learn about them, I also learn more about myself. I started my first program at age nine. By age 16 I was CEO of a nonprofit. Who I am today and what I have accomplished is directly related to the opportunities and encouragement I was given. This motivation is what carries me in wanting to help others realize their potential and to discover that they too, can make a difference.

What are you passionate about?

  • Do you like to write? You can write thank you letters to our soldiers or “I Care About You” cards to go in Caring Bags for the homeless.
  • Do you like to draw?  You can make holiday cards for nursing homes and veterans or make valentine cards for Meals On Wheels and children’s hospitals.
  • Do you like to garden? You can participate in a community garden or help an African village raise food for their community by selling seeds.

I love to read. So I took my love for reading and developed a program to distribute books, backpacks and school supplies to children’s hospitals, third world orphanages, neighborhood reading programs and shelters.

My goal is to continue to empower youth by providing volunteer and educational opportunities and to spread the volunteer spirit internationally. Giving someone an opportunity to make a difference has a domino effect. I believe caring is giving others opportunities, opportunities change a life, and a changed life, changes the world.   

Check out previous For the Win blog posts

Ronnie Cho is an Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

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