18 year old Kaylene Raftis is graduating this June from Kentwood High School and completing her Associates Degree as a Running Start Student at Green River Community College. She hopes to join AmeriCorps in the fall and spend the year serving communities across the United States. She served as a One Million Meals Campaign intern with us and has some great insights around the program that helps to end summer hunger for so many in our community.
Have you ever considered how helpful free or reduced meals provided by our schools are to low-income families? But what happens when this resource is no longer available, like during the summer? Low-income families spent on average $316 extra on groceries per month during the summer. So isn’t it odd that there is a federal program that would finance two meals daily for all kids and teens under 18 and no one knows about it? In fact, in Washington only 10% of those eligible to receive meals are participating in the program. So to combat this problem United Way wanted to raise awareness and create more meal sites around King County. To accomplish these goals they needed to hire a large team of enthusiastic young people to do outreach and run all these new sites. I am writing this blog post because I was lucky enough to be a part of the original One Million Meals Campaign Corps and want to encourage others to pursue this opportunity this coming summer.
The job itself was a lot of fun, you spend your day hanging out with kids and teens and trying to spread awareness for the program. The people I worked with were also some of the best co-workers I have ever had; which is to be expected when your job’s focus is serving the community. I was assigned to the Des Moines Area Food Bank which sponsors around 23 meal sites and we would prepare all the meals by hand every morning. So a typical day for me would begin around 9 am and we would work as a team to prepare and package approximately 1200 meals. Then we would load up our vans around 11:30 am and head to our meal sites. At the sites we served the meals and would typically stay and do activities with the kids and teens there. At my site we particularly enjoyed playing board games, basketball, and camp style activities. After activities we would serve snack, pack up, and head back to the food bank to clean up and count our leftover meals. I would usually end the day around 4:00 pm, exhausted but proud of what we accomplished that day.
I’ve had many opportunities arise from my work during the last two summers as a part of the One Million Meals Campaign Corps. During my first year I got to know the kids that participated in our program and found we share a common interest in the trading card game Pokémon. For the remainder of the summer I hosted a tournament for the kids that played the game. So when I was done working that first summer I came back during the school year and organized an after school program focused on the trading card game. Under the supervision of the after school program coordinator I began a weekly hour and a half after school program that ran for approximately 3 months. Through my work with United Way I also discovered how much I enjoy serving my community, and was made aware of the AmeriCorps program. This experience helped me figure out my next steps when I graduate from high school this year. I am currently submitting my application to AmeriCorps NCCC all thanks to the experience I had with United Way.
This job has provided me with a wealth of experiences and references that are invaluable to a young person graduating high school. I think this is an excellent opportunity for someone wanting to serve their community while also setting up a foundation for a bright future. In order to be successful in this job you need to be a team player and willing to work hard to complete tasks on time. Additionally, the ability to adapt and be creative when leading activities. If you possess these qualities I would encourage you to apply for the most fun and rewarding summer job you could possibly have. Apply today!