President Obama and Young Americans

For the Win: Problem-Solving People

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.

Calla Gilson, age 17, from Delta, Ohio is an advocate for local migrant workers and the educational needs of migrant youth. She got her start volunteering with the Migrant Ministry, a program that provides educational support for migrant students and advocates on behalf of the migrant worker community. In addition to raising awareness about the challenges affecting migrant youth, Calla takes the lead on a variety of other projects, such as raising money for cancer victims. She is involved in these projects through her role as a founding member of the Toledo UCREW student advisory board, a youth development program focusing on service, leadership and social entrepreneurship. She also acts as a mentor to younger students through a Big Sis Little Sis program and serves as an officer for her school’s Princess Club, raising awareness of the inner beauty and health of women and children through service in the community. Calla inspires other youth to get involved in service as a National Youth Advisory Council member for generationOn, the youth enterprise of Points of Light.

“We are problem-solving people!”  The thought returned to me again and again as I listened in amazement during several workshops with a variety of focuses at the Points of Light 2013 Conference on Volunteering and Service. Each and every workshop seemed to be merely a variation on this one, concrete theme that is the heart of every service venture.  I would say it is this identity that is the service community’s greatest asset–the ability to recognize a need, and rise to not only a solution, but to work in a way that invites each person to be a part of something greater than themselves in a fashion that only giving back can truly do. This sort of innovation is truly ingenious–an undeniable mainstay of productivity that any society should prize. And let’s face it, our world isn’t going to run out of problems soon–child hunger, education inequality, international humanitarian injusticetake your pick, there are oodles of issues ripe for the picking, and application of the dedicated hard work of people who recognize their severity is in high demand.

Calla Gilson

Calla Gilson. (Photo from Points of Light Institute)

I had very little expectations going into the Conference on Volunteering and Service. I figured that each workshop would be a general sharing of knowledge, but in a way that was more focused on what the separate sponsor organizations had done in their years of service–plugs for individual missions and specific service campaigns. Perhaps that is why I was so blown away by the true impact of the conference.

Empowerment through shared experience and the generation of fresh ideas through presentations and collaborations equipped each attendee with the know-how and inspiration to tackle any social injustice. This was the first year of the Global track at the conference, and I feel so honored to have taken part in celebrating this milestone! I admire the service community for recognizing the need for international involvement and expanding its outreach to enable a greater focus. I write this blog from China, and while the focus of my visit is on language immersion, I am enjoying learning about the societal norms for service. My group will be partaking in several service projects in which I will be able to utilize the skills shared in the workshops.

While problem solving is very important, it must be fueled somehow, and there is no better way to feed this productive fire than with the kindling of enthusiasm! The enthusiasm of each individual who attended the conference was undeniably contagious. A collective can-do attitude created such an atmosphere of support and optimism that it couldn’t be escaped! This is an essential component of the problem-solving formula. The denial of the “impossible” and the ability to embrace change continues to build up the community and nurture its growth. It is this that connects each partner organization, enterprise and business—a demand for a greater good. The Conference on Volunteering and Service wasn’t about individual goals, or trying to recruit supporters for specific campaigns. Rather, it was about coming together, for the good of the community—to engage, empower and inspire, so that together we can grow through the creation of solutions to the problems that we each recognize, and in the process, change the world.

 Check out previous For the Win blog posts:

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

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