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(Enlarge) Victoria Smalling, 15, a volunteer at Army Community Service through the installation's new Youth Summer Leadership Challenge, makes a flyer for the Army Family Teen Building Program at ACS.

More than 20 youths will spend seven weeks of their summer volunteering at various organizations on post, thanks to a new initiative spearheaded by Garrison Commander Col. Edward C. Rothstein.

The Youth Summer Leadership Challenge, which started June 25 and ends Aug. 10, provides youths age 12 to 18 with the opportunity to gain professional experience and community-service hours through volunteering.

The challenge is coordinated by Marie Miles, Fort Meade's Army Volunteer Corps coordinator at Army Community Service.

"Colonel Rothstein has been extremely supportive and he's excited about the program," Miles said.

Several post organizations, including the Family Pet Care Center, Thrift Shop, Army Substance Abuse Program, Public Affairs Office, Soldier Family Assistance Center, ACS and the Lanes, are hosting the volunteers for the summer.

Ten youths also will be selected to participate in disaster-preparadeness training.

Each organization determines the amount of hours and days the volunteers will serve.

"We want the young people to know that working can be fun, and for them to develop good habits of commitment and responsibility," Miles said.

In addition to volunteering, ACS will provide participants with a free class in financial management and an opportunity to create a professional portfolio.

The volunteer program began with an orientation session where participants learned about the importance of customer service and professional conduct and dress.

Victoria Smalling, 15, a sophomore at Thomas Stone High School in Waldorf, and Voya Coleman, 16, a junior at Manor New Technology High School in Manor, Texas, are volunteers at ACS. The teens assist staffers with clerical work, special events and other projects.

"I feel it's a good thing," said Victoria, daughter of a DoD civilian employee. "You're able to get a feel for a real working environment. You get to meet new people, and it looks excellent on your college application."

Voya, daughter of a retired Air Force service member, said participating in the program inspires her to come to work every day.

"I love it," she said. "It's fun doing different mini-projects and helping other employees."

Mike Sinek, manager at the Lanes, said five youths are volunteering at the bowling center during the summer.

"We're introducing them to customer service and how to deal with customers," he said. "It's a real eye-opening experience for them."

To volunteer or for more information, call Army Community Service at 301-677-5590.

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