There is an old saying: Begin as you wish to proceed. And so here at Youthlinc, we kick off each program year with the whole team together: students, parents, mentors, and sponsors of each incoming class. Everyone really friendly, upbeat, arms open to the world, eager to learn and work together, eager to help in any way they can to make this world a better place.

I like to say that for students, entering the Youthlinc program is like going away to college. No one really knows anyone, but everyone wants to make friends. The first day everyone might be a bit tentative, but in no time at all, you’ve made buddies for a lifetime.

Every student accepted into the Youthlinc program, every mentor who takes up this cause, is a good person by the very nature of their willingness to undertake the challenge of the Service Year. This school year, 140 Utah high school and college students will volunteer 12,000 hours of local service all over this state. Each will realize he or she can make a difference at an afterschool tutoring program, a senior center, a homeless shelter, a school for kids with disabilities, a hospital, 140 different service sites.

We’ll talk about the local service commitment at General Orientation, and we’ll talk about the service planning every team member will be part of in monthly meetings this school year. Regardless of whether you are going to Kenya, Mexico, Peru, Thailand, or Cambodia next summer, you will be involved in planning educational, vocational training,microenterprise, construction, and cultural exchange activities.

People always ask me: What is the best Youthlinc international site? What is your favorite? The truth is that the scenery is different, some plane rides are longer than others, and some cost more to get to. But each international service experience is the same: utterly wonderful, fulfilling, rewarding, and unforgettable.

At General Orientation, your team leaders will show a powerpoint of the internationl experience: from leaving at the Salt Lake Airport, to arriving in the village, your accommodations in-country, and all the activities last year’s team accomplished in partnership with the hardworking, humble, and resourceful people we serve.

You’ll leave General Orientation with a lot of information in your head, really pumped and excited for the Service Year adventure that is beginning. You’ll start to have plans, and hopes, and dreams of how this program will impact you… and how you can impact others.

But like all of life, Youthlinc is a process, a journey. You are in the driver’s seat. You can see the road immediately ahead of you. We hope, through General Oriention, to help point you in the right direction: towards a lifetime of giving back and all the joy that will give you.

Welcome Youthlinc Class of 2011! Welcome lifetime humanitarians in the making!

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