Think back to the sixth grade. Remember all the trouble you used to get into? What about 7th and 8th grade. Oh, boy. Now imagine how bad things would have been for you (and your parents) if you would have had an iPhone, Facebook and Instagram during these…growth periods. Yikes. Well, kids these days (yeah, I just said that) have all of this and probably a few things we don’t even know about. With these distractions and all the other challenges they face coming up in America, (post-economic meltdown and “KimYe”) it’s not hard to see why trying to instill good morals and values in youths has become harder than ever. We all know it. But for most of us who don’t have kids yet—or even if you do--we feel there’s not much we can do about it.
Kelley Raleigh had a different reaction to this issue. While studying social work at the University of Missouri, she became a Big Sister to a 13-year-old girl and was moved to see the direct impact she had on a young life. The experience inspired her to outreach further and she began to mentor more young kids. Kelley realized pretty quickly that this was her passion and her mission became clear: reach out to kids in order to help them discover their purpose. She began to feel that she was making a difference but the challenges of her newfound passion became clear pretty quickly too, “I realized there was a fine line between wanting to encourage and forcing your ways on someone. I learned to be careful not to put my own ways on [the kids]. I didn’t want to interfere with what parents were teaching them.” Kelley’s passion for mentoring became her career focus after she graduated and she became a program director for the Big Brother and Big Sisters' group mentoring program, teaching college students how to be mentors. She taught the little kids arts and crafts for fun, and lessons like how to be a good citizen. She also formed a committee of teens to produce open mic events, dance performances, short films and art exhibits.
In 2003 Kelley moved to LA and began working with Teen Insight as the Director of Teen Insight & The Institute for Youth Leadership. More than just giving her pupils fun activities to do, Kelley honed in on inspiring them to look inside themselves and figure out what they had to offer the world. She created a four day retreat in Malibu with the goal of developing leadership skills by creating volunteer projects. For three years they met and had each teen volunteer group presented a plan to visit one place in the world they would want to go. The amazing part: in 2009, one of these plans was chosen by Teen Insight to be a real volunteer project! Kelley and her team of family, friends and these amazing young people raised over $120K to pay for their trip to Tanzania, Africa. Kelley and 16 kids, most of whom had never left the greater LA area, traveled across the Atlantic to visit an AIDS orphanage, build classrooms, teach English and give mini versions of the same leadership seminars they held in LA. They even learned Swahili! The trip was three weeks long and it was life changing for all of them. The American students were inspired to change the world in a very real way and many of them signed up to make the trip again in 2011.
Talking to Kelley about this, I was truly amazed. Her easygoing manner belies her deep-rooted passion for creating change through youths. She considers the young girls and boys in her group, and their families, all part of her own family since she has been mentoring them for years. A woman of many talents, Kelley now uses her production background to create rewarding experience for her students. When she left Teen Insight to focus solely on service projects for teens, she started Leading by Example, a multimedia company where kids create positive, message driven content. Recently, the group created a “Stop the Bully” video and held a screening at their school. “I want to ingrain the desire to help others in my students, give them a hands-on experience with making a difference in the world,” Kelley said.
It was a lot of pressure to plan an international trip with young kids, keep everyone safe and healthy, and provide an amazing experience, but she did it all again with her own company in 2012. This time around, Kelley's and her team of youth volunteers visited AMANC, a special hospital in Mexico City for poor children with cancer. There, they practiced healthy visualizations and yoga with the sick, and just spent time with them. The experience was much different, but no less rewarding for Kelley and for the teen volunteer group.
It takes a great leader to inspire others to do good works. Kelley has inspired hundreds of kids to lead better lives for themselves, and to be examples for others. Her dedication to instilling values and creating leaders makes me feel a little bit better about the future of our youth. Hopefully her example will inspire other Made Women to reach out and support those coming up behind us as well.
For more information on Leading By Example please visit http://www.kelleyraleigh.com.
The holiday spirit motivates many of us to open our wallets and give as much as we can to our loved ones. In fact, maxing out credit cards, camping out in parking lots in the dead of winter, and braving the early mornings, crazy crowds and lines have [somehow] become the hallmarks of the holiday season in America. Talk about pressure. According to recent statistics reported by the American Psychological Association, 69% of people are stressed by a lack of money and 51% feel stressed out over the pressure to give gifts.
But consider this: Buying a tea set for your mother that she’ll never use, a handbag for your sister that she’s going to return and a sweater for your boyfriend that he’s too embarrassed to wear are not the only ways to spread the holiday spirit. Devoting our time, expertise or energy can improve the lives of others in ways that marked down goods simply can’t. If we aspire to give more of ourselves this holiday season, we’ll enjoy much more than the fleeting satisfaction of mere gift giving. Here are five ways to bring good cheer to your loved ones and your wallet:
1. Deliver meals to those in need: To help out members of your community who are sick or elderly, try Mealtrain.com. It makes it easy for friends, family and neighbors to sign up to prepare meals for those in need.
2. Donate: Clean out your closets and donate gently used winter clothes to Goodwill or The Salvation Army. You can also donate toiletries and canned goods to support families in need during the holiday season.
3. Volunteer. Anywhere. Helping out at your local food bank, church or homeless shelter are all great ways to give back to your community. Nonprofit organizations can always use the extra help. Idealist and Volunteer Match are online resources that can help you find volunteer opportunities in your community based on your interests.
4. Offer your expertise: Are you a financial guru, a fabulous beautician or an expert party planner? These are all services that people want and need this time of year, but often can't afford. Your knowledge and skill will be greatly appreciated.
5. Be of good cheer: A positive attitude can go a long way. Offer emotional support in the form of a words of encouragement for a student stressed out during finals, a hug for a lonely friend or a smile to a stranger. It doesn’t cost a thing and no one will want to return it.
The holiday season can be a great time to reflect and be thankful for everything that we have. Whether it is wealth, health, friends or family, we all have something that we can be grateful for this year. Giving back helps to nurture your assets and your relationships. And it will last longer than any holiday fruit cake!
Living as an actor in LA you are faced with a lot of rejection and disappointment. “No” is a word you hear a lot more than “yes” and sometimes you feel like you should just give up. And if you have to work a job you hate in order to pay the bills it can really take its toll on you. I can say personally that for a while things really started to get to me. Roles I felt sure I had gotten fell through and I was so tired of going to my night job that I had to force myself to walk out the door every day with tears in my eyes. After a bit I decided that I needed to snap out of it. I opened my eyes to the world around me and started seeing the harsh realities other people were dealing with. As I drove to work every day, I would pass at least three people who were homeless. I started thinking about how their lives must be and that I was being pretty lame complaining about mine when I at least had somewhere to live, clean clothes, food…
I began thinking about how I could make others a little bit happier rather than wallowing in my own disappointments. That's when I began to bake cookies and deliver them to people who were living on the street. All I wanted to do was brighten their day but what I found is they usually were the ones brightening mine. Sometimes I would start out in the morning tired and stressed out. I’d be thinking about a role that I didn't book or the money I wish I had or the bigger apartment I wanted to move into or a list of other things I let get to me. After a couple smiling faces, however, it was hard to figure out why I made these things so important and why I was letting them make me so unhappy. The people I met didn't have food to wake up to and they didn't have a bed to fall asleep in at night but I brought them a bit of joy with a couple of cookies. It made me whining about not having enough money seem extremely petty.
By doing this small thing I was able to bring a little happiness into lives of others and I was able to completely change my outlook on life. It made me become a happier person and start truly appreciating what I have as opposed to focusing on the things that I want to have. It made me become a better woman.
Since my cookie days....which I still do, I have started volunteering officially with my church. Recently I helped take a group of underprivileged kids to the beach so they could have a fun day in the sun. Some of these kids never get the chance to even see the beach. I want to spend more of my time helping other people, I want to make their lives a little brighter and the great perk is; I get my life made a little brighter at the same time.
If you need more proof on the power of giving back, I came across a couple ladies online who have touching stories about how volunteering has changed their lives as well. Like Michelle who started volunteering after getting out of an abusive relationship and now credits it with increasing her confidence. Or Lisa who spent time volunteering with children in Honduras and now doesn't take for granted all of the luxuries she has in her life like transportation and clothing.
Ralph Waldo Emerson says it best, "It is one of the beautiful compensations in life, that no man can sincerely help another without helping himself." Giving back to the community with volunteering and outreach usually starts as the desire to help other people. You really want to make a difference in someone’s life or change the world into a better place. I believe that by volunteering you will do these things and more but the biggest change you will see is within yourself and not the people you are trying to help. Maybe it's time for you to start volunteering... It could change your life.
This article was part of our series "30 Days of Made: Love Yourself". Each day we released updates of videos, poetry, images, and original content, all based on the theme of loving yourself. Click the link to read more!