Contributed by: Makenna Brandt, Community Relations Intern
Laney Sheffel is both our Volunteer of the Month for July, and our Emerging Leader of the Year! Congratulations Laney!
Laney was a Pathfinder intern with GEN during the summer of 2015 and fell in love with the programming. She has been volunteering with GEN’s afterschool programs off and on ever since!
We asked Laney some questions to find out why she loves GEN, and why GEN loves her:
1. Why did you choose to volunteer with GEN in the first place?
I applied to intern with GEN to gain professional experience. I decided to stick around to volunteer because of the staff; everyone I met was so lovely and passionate. Their excitement and kindness made me want to stay connected with the organization. Every club GEN coordinator I worked with was so amazing and inspiring, it’s contagious.
2. What about GEN has made you stick around for so long?
I noticed that I always felt happier after volunteering. There is something about each girl you work with that is so special: some are quiet and shy, and some are really rambunctious. It’s so fun to connect with girls, even if just for a few hours every week. I felt confident that I was acting as a role model to them. I always left club GEN feeling more relaxed and positive than when I came.
3. What is your favorite part about volunteering with GEN?
I love creating bonds with the staff, fellow volunteers, and the club GEN girls each semester. It’s special to know that once a week you get to connect with amazing women of all ages. It’s great to know that you can lean on them when you had a bad week, but also know that they too lean on you. It’s so awesome when Club GEN girls act especially excited to see you, it reminds you that you’re more than just a weekly volunteer to the girls.
4. What would your advice be to other volunteers?
My advice would be that even if you don’t feel like you made a huge impact one week, know that your continued presence means a lot to girls that may otherwise not have a lot of stability in their lives. I would encourage you to try to volunteer at one school for a few semesters. The girls will trust you more as they see you stick around, and it’s really amazing to watch the girls progress through school. Also, this typically allows you to stay with one coordinator for a longer period of time, meaning you’ll become comfortable and confident with your coordinator, and hopefully become their friend too.
5. What qualities about yourself do you think made GEN choose you to be Emerging Leader of the Year?
I think I was always eager to help, and it meant a lot that I was able to commit to club GEN for several semesters while I was in school. Sometimes it felt a little daunting to be volunteering while maintaining school work and other unpaid internships, but the reality is, my time volunteering made my college experience so fulfilling, and complemented my professional growth as much as any internship.
6. Is there a particularly inspiring moment you’ve witnessed when volunteering with the girls?
It’s hard to pick a particular moment because there are so many. I think my favorite moments involve conversations with girls where I could tell they saw me as a friend. There’s a difference that you can feel when a girl respects you because you’re older than when she looks up to you because she sees you as a friend. I had so many special moments with girls throughout each semester, where they felt comfortable opening up to me and sharing some of their goals, hopes, or worries. Those moments truly make GEN feel the most impactful to me.