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Hearing from Youth as Well as About Them

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An interview with


So much has been written about youth as volunteers, but most often by adults. Of course adults work with young volunteers, and teenagers and university students have been surveyed directly by researchers. Yet we rarely hear directly from young people in journals such as this one.

Richard Fernandes is a 19-year-old freshman at Drexel University in Philadelphia . Since age 14 he has been an enthusiastic participant in volunteer projects and quickly became a leader, urging and coordinating his peers to get involved. Richard explodes many stereotypes about who volunteers and why – he’s male, African-American, urban, and started his community service as a requirement of residence in a special college prep program for disadvantaged youth, A Better Chance (http://www.abetterchance.org).

We interviewed him for e-Volunteerism in September 2004. Here are some of his thoughts about teenagers and volunteering, and advice for volunteer program managers. Listen to his thoughts on the need to make volunteering “cool” while educating teens on the exciting things they can do through community service.