Program keeps youth busy with volunteer work during summer

Wednesday, June 1, 2011 | 8:52 p.m. CDT; updated 9:58 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 7, 2011

COLUMBIA – Mingyoo Cho, 12, paced back and forth along the table, trying to make up his mind like a kid in a candy store. The candy was an array of activities for him to participate in this summer.

Mingyoo, a bashful boy from South Korea, came to the Activity and Recreation Center with his father to sign up for the 10th Youth in Action summer volunteer program, sponsored by City of Columbia's Volunteer Programs Department.

The eight-week long program offers 35 different activities, including two new activities: a Boone County Health Department event where volunteers get to plant seeds and help the environment and one at the Columbia Farmer's Market.

The activities are aimed at keeping kids active during the dog days of summer, but many also provide useful skills.

John Osborn, an MU social work graduate student and an intern with the youth program, gave advice to Mingyoo.

"I recommend the resume building class to everyone," Osborn said.

One of the most popular activities is the Stream Team. There are three different locations offered where volunteers can learn about the importance of having clean streams.

The program saves money through the kids' volunteer hours, and the children also get the fun of being able to "stomp in a creek" Osborn said.

Other popular programs are the ones that usually involve animals, such as the activity with Columbia Second Chance animal shelter and the Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center program.

Kwangmoon Cho, 43, Mingyoo's father, said that he heard about the program from the public school's website. Kwangmoon Cho and Mingyoo Cho have been in Columbia for about a year since they moved from South Korea. They spent about 20 minutes deciding on six activities.

"I'm surprised how many people learned about this from schools," Osborn said.

Osborn said about 60 percent of the children signed up are usually parent driven. The rest are kids who "really want something to do."

There is no cut off date to sign up for this program, but activities do fill up.

"You'll get to choose what you want if you do instead of getting stuck with something nobody really wants to do," Osborn said.

The program's goal for the number of total volunteer hours is 400. Osborn said the city could save up to about $8,000 from volunteer work with the added bonus of keeping children busy.

The first activity, Stream Team, begins at 12:30 p.m. June 8 at Flat Branch Creek. Volunteers receive a free T-shirt for participating.

To apply, sign up for activities or view the list of activities, go to the Youth in Action information Web page or call Osborn at 808-2112.

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