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(Enlarge) Teens who participated in the Youth Summer Volunteer Leadership Challenge enjoy hamburgers and hot dogs at a barbecue hosted Monday afternoon at the RV park by Garrison Commander Col. Edward C. Rothstein and his wife, Audrey. Serving in eight garrison organizations throughout the post, 27 youths volunteered more than 1,500 hours this summer. (Photo by Jen Rynda)

Daonica Smith volunteered more than three days per week this summer at Army Community Service and the Post Thrift Shop.

The 13-year-old said the experience was an eye-opener.

"I learned that if I volunteer now, I can do better things in life," said Daonica, an eighth-grader at MacArthur Middle School.

Someday, she said, she may become a business manager.

Daonica was one of 27 teens who participated in Fort Meade's first Youth Summer Volunteer Leadership Challenge.

The program was initiated by Garrison Commander Col. Edward C. Rothstein to provide teens with the opportunity to volunteer at garrison organizations and learn professional skills for the workforce.

On Monday afternoon, Rothstein and his wife, Audrey, hosted a barbecue for the volunteers at the RV park to celebrate their accomplishments.

"I think this is the beginning of a program that will last quite some time," said Rothstein during a brief ceremony at the barbecue. "Don't let this be the last time that you volunteer. Volunteering is a 24/7 and 365-day opportunity. It is amazing what you receive in return. Some times it is just a smile and a thanks."

Marie Miles, Fort Meade's Army Volunteer Corps coordinator at ACS, organized the volunteer challenge, which started June 25 and ended Aug. 10.

Eight garrison organizations, including ACS, the Family Pet Care Center, the Thrift Shop and the Lanes, hosted the teens and provided a glimpse of how the garrison serves the community.

In addition to the opportunity to serve, the program provided classes on preparing a resume portfolio and managing finances.

Miles said although some volunteer hours were not reported, the teens completed 1,524 hours of volunteer service. If the hours were computed at the national average of $21.75 per volunteer hour, the teens' service would total $33,168 in savings for the community, she said.

At the barbecue, six teens were awarded the President's Volunteer Service Award, an initiative of the Corporation for National and Community Service, for earning more than 50 volunteer hours during the challenge.

Voya Coleman, 16, a junior at Manor View Technology High School in Manor, Texas, volunteered 290 hours; David Sherrod, 14, volunteered 288 hours; and Victoria Smalling, 15, a sophomore at Thomas Stone High School in Waldorf, volunteered 264 hours.

The three volunteers, who were unable to attend the event, each earned the gold level of the award for their age category and received an iPod Touch donated by the Fort Meade USO.

Elisha Roby, 14, a freshman at Reservoir High School in Laurel, volunteered 154 hours and earned the gold level of the award for her age category.

William Herndon, 16, a senior at Archbishop Spaulding High School in Severn, volunteered 127 hours and earned the bronze level for his age category.

Elisha received a $50 Walmart gift card. William received a $30 Walmart gift card.

Rothstein's 14-year-old son, Sam, an eighth-grader at Sykesville Middle School in Carroll County, volunteered 59.5 hours and earned the bronze level for his age category.

"It was fun. I got to explore doing different things," said Elisha, who volunteered at the Thrift Shop, Child Development Center II, ACS and the Main Post Chapel.

Elisha said she did clerical work, supervised children and sharpened her organizational skills.

"You can't do anything without good organizational skills," she said.

Elisha's mother, Tamica Roby, an administrative assistant at the Fleet and Family Support Center at the Community Readiness Center, said her daughter gained important skills this summer.

"I think it was a great experience," Roby said, noting that Elisha was exposed to the realities of the workforce. "It let her know all the things that I talk to her about real work."

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