Javin Smith Is An Overachiever
The 17-year-old youth volunteer has done work for three different non-profits
What made you decide to become a youth volunteer?
I’ve lived in the Amani neighborhood for 10 or 11 years. I wanted to help out my neighborhood, with a growing problem of break-ins into houses. People were breaking into and sleeping in these houses, and neighbors were worried the safety of kids in the neighborhood.
Describe the organizations where you volunteer and the work they do.
Since my focus is to help my neighborhood, I’ve been involved with COA Goldin Community Center, Painting with Purpose and ArtWorks for Milwaukee.
Painting with Purpose was a volunteer program for youth volunteers in the Amani neighborhood to serve their community, learn skills for the future and be a driving force behind a neighborhood beautification project. We painted and decorated boards on foreclosed homes.
Located within the Amani neighborhood, COA’s Goldin Center provides year-round youth development programs that engage kids through activities that drive academic achievement, increase career-readiness, foster personal growth, provide empowerment and support, address risky behaviors, and encourage healthy lifestyles.
ArtWorks for Milwaukee provides paid and unpaid arts-based internships to Milwaukee area high school students. Interns use a variety of arts techniques to learn life and career skills.
What do you do when you volunteer, what kind of help do you provide?
When Painting with Purpose first started in 2014, I was one of the first volunteers and soon became a youth leader. As one of the older teens in the program, I taught the kids how to paint the stencils on the board-ups. We weren’t just painting. We also talked about jobs skills, resumes and how to fill out job applications and find a job so they would know these things when they got to be my age.
I’ve also been involved in COA’s teen program as a teen coordinator and helped feed families at the summer food program. Eventually I joined the Goldin Coalition which is a teen leadership group. This group helps with program development and service projects including neighborhood clean-ups and attending monthly Amani neighborhood meetings.
How long have you volunteered there?
I’ve been volunteering at COA-Goldin Center for 2 years. I first became involved with Painting with Purpose in 2014 and had 2 internships with ArtWorks for Milwaukee in the summer and fall of 2014.
What surprised you the most about volunteering?
The amount of kids who were volunteering. There were two girls who used to volunteer with us. They enjoyed it so much that they would show up early, even on days we didn’t do the painting program. They would ask, “Can we do the board-ups today?” They would be really disappointed if it was an off day for painting.
The kids that worked on Painting with Purpose were young, the youngest probably 8. There was one girl who had over 80 hours with Painting with Purpose. She was only 9 years old.
What new things have you learned through this volunteer opportunity?
Volunteering is more of a learning environment which can prepare you to actually get a job. Since I was one of the older teens, I realize that I can be a role model for youth.
Has it changed your view of this community in any way?
I did learn that kids care about stuff if they learn about the problem. If they have the opportunity to, they’ll do something about it. Lots of people came and went, but the kids 13 and under were the ones really motivated to do the work.
Has volunteering helped you, has it had benefits for you?
Due to my work with Painting with Purpose, I was later hired into two paid internships at ArtWorks for Milwaukee. In the summer of 2014, I worked with H20 Milwaukee and other interns to create an anti-gun violence music video, “A Single Bullet”. It teaches you about the effect that a single bullet can have on a family, our community and anyone connected to the situation.
That fall, I returned to ArtWorks in a peer leadership role during the “Who We Are” program to create works of art for the United Way of Greater Milwaukee. The painting I worked on, called “The Brightness of Burleigh” features COA Goldin as an example of a meaningful local community space.
What are you proudest of accomplishing in your work as a volunteer?
My proudest accomplishment was when I received an award from Mayor Tom Barrett at City Hall for volunteering with Painting with Purpose.
What are your future plans?
After I graduate from Vincent High School this June, I’ve made the decision to join the Marines and will go to San Diego for boot camp this summer.
Would you recommend volunteering to others? If so, what would you tell them is the benefit they’d get from volunteering?
Yes, I would. Volunteering looks good on a resume and it can possibly lead to a job. You learn skills in other areas, even if you don’t want to have a career in those skills.
How would you suggest someone begin if they want to volunteer?
I would suggest they look to volunteer in their neighborhood. I started volunteering at COA. Then Painting with Purpose came down to the Goldin Center to ask about who wanted to get involved with this program. It was right around the corner from my house, so I was easily able to show up and help out with the project.