Too often adults complain that teenagers are uncaring, selfish, always looking down at their phones. If you believe that to be true, what are you doing about it?

It is our responsibility to act rather than complain. Teenagers need attention, guidance and personal connections with adults involved in their community. There are many mentoring opportunities and, as adults, not only must we lead by example, we should make it a personal mission to connect with those on the verge of adulthood and becoming young professionals. Many of us give money and time for causes, a noble thing. I propose that while doing so, take it a step further and nurture the next generation to follow your lead. Take a couple of students on that next community service project, find opportunities to expose them to service and, in the process, you will find yourself mentoring and, yes, enjoying it!

I do not believe young people are selfish and proved it. Four years ago, I helped start the Interact Club at Centennial High School, a community service club under Rotary International. The motto, “Service above self,” says it all. It has been one of the more rewarding experiences of my life, working with teens, showing them how to give back and, in the process, developed strong bonds that still hold after graduation.

The club boasts 120 members earning many awards in a short time, including the Beautiful Bakersfield Award, Congressional Citation and House of Representatives Excellence in Service Award. Members have gone on to join Rotaract, the equivalent of Rotary at the college and community level for students and young professionals. Our Bakersfield Rotaract Club is a dynamic service club with dedicated young professionals looking to add more members.

Interact and Rotaract are mentored and supported by Rotary Clubs. I encourage you to Google rotary or email me to find out more. But I digress, what I have learned is that if you lead the way, young people will follow.

An amazing side effect is the mentoring opportunity this brings about. Imagine the chance to change a life for the better; it is a heady, heartwarming and one of the most positive experiences of your life. Consider joining a local Rotary Club.

Rotary presents countless possibilities to get involved with young people including projects, leadership camps, conferences, student exchange programs and events such as local Rotary Youth Empowerment Summit (KernYES!) in February and at the Rotary District level, RYLA, Rotary Youth Leadership camp. All great opportunities to mentor and help develop young minds and hearts.

Yes, you can leave a better world, not with grandiose overtures, but in your own backyard by mentoring. Help start and nurture a community service group in your local high school, join Rotary. Peace and understanding can be achieved one kind act at a time, let’s help our next generation on the journey toward a kinder world. Ask me how!

Li M. Gibbs, from Barcelona, Spain, is married to local attorney Steven Gibbs, a past president of Bakersfield East Rotary Club. Li is currently youth chair for Twilight Rotary Club of Bakersfield, event chair for KernYES! and incoming director of new generations for Rotary District 5240. For more information about Rotary, Rotaract and Interact, contact her at ligibbs@pacbell.net. The views expressed in this column are her own.

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