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Inspire Me: Young volunteers feed their character

Sixteen-year-old Bria Prioleau began volunteering for EdVenture when she was 12 years old. Four years later, the Cardinal Newman junior said she hasn’t tired of the children’s museum.

“It never gets old,” said Prioleau, who not only helps out with tours at the South’s “largest children’s museum” but also assists with a variety of other activities from hosting birthday parties to helping small children operate some of the exhibits. She even fields questions from adults.

“It’s definitely helped me with public speaking and people skills,” said Prioleau, who would like to become an architect someday.

In fact, Prioleau said, working at the museum has helped her overcome shyness. “I am definitely more confident now. It’s helped me to talk to parents.”

And while volunteering may be unusual for someone Prioleau’s age, many believe community participation among the young may be fast becoming the new societal norm.

“Right now, we have between 30 and 40 teenage and college volunteers,” said EdVenture executive director Catherine Horne. And while young people might be attracted to EdVenture for its fun and youthful atmosphere, an increased interest in volunteerism among community leaders as a way of rounding out students might also be driving the trend.

“Many schools are now requiring their students to earn or perform so many hours of community service during the school year,” Horne said.

Cardinal Newman requires all juniors and seniors to put in at least 40 hours of community service per school year, Prioleau said.

Whatever the reason, Horne said they’re happy to have them.

“We are a nonprofit. ... Our cost of operations is three times what our cost of admissions is so it’s important to have the help.”

In fact, EdVenture has had such success with attracting and retaining young volunteers, the museum is considering the possibility of additional opportunities such as a career development programs specifically targeting this age group.

“We’ve had countless volunteers ... tell us they’ve decided to become teachers or who have later changed their majors to education.”

Even if it weren’t mandatory, Prioleau said she probably still would volunteer for EdVenture. “I volunteer in the summer too. ... I think it’s important to give back to the community.”

Interested in volunteering for EdVenture? The museum is looking for both adult and youth volunteers for its new exhibit, “Blooming Butterflies,” opening May 9. Information: (803) 400-1138 or edventure.org.

OPPORTUNITIES ABOUND

Additional volunteer opportunities in the area:

11TH CIRCUIT JUVENILE ARBITRATION PROGRAM: Seeks volunteers to work with Solicitor Donnie Myers’ office conducting arbitration hearings with first-time offenders. Will be conducting training sessions beginning in September. Must be at least 21 years of age, have a high school diploma and no criminal record. Information: (803) 785-8355.

STATE MUSEUM: Seeks volunteers to help in every department: research, gift shop, school groups and exhibits. Information: (803) 898-4912 or e-mail jennifer.lee@scmuseum.org.

COOPERATIVE MINISTRY: Seeks furniture donations to help supply homes of families now living in area shelters. Drop off at 3821 W. Beltline Blvd. or call to schedule pick up (803) 799-3853 ,ext. 312.

AIDS BENEFIT FOUNDATION OF SOUTH CAROLINA: Seeks volunteers to help with annual gala and fundraiser. (803) 254-6644, ext. 110; schivaidscouncil.org

AMERICAN RED CROSS: Seeks volunteers to join disaster relief efforts. Stop by 2751 Bull St. (803) 540-1200; centralscredcross.orgvolunteermatch.org.

CONGAREE NATIONAL PARK: Seeks volunteers for variety of programs, including resource management, visitor services, facility maintenance and special events. 100 National Park Road, Hopkins. (803) 647-3974; nps.gov/cong

COLUMBIA MUSEUM OF ART: Seeks volunteers to assist the public during “Turner to Cezanne: Masterpieces from the Davies Collection, National Museum Wales” exhibition, through June 7. (803) 343-2170; columbiamuseum.org

MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY ASSOCIATION: Volunteer counselors needed for summer camps. Must be at least 16 and able to lift and care for campers. (800) 572-1717; mda.org/clinics/camp.

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