Editor’s note: United Way Brand Ambassador Mahogany Jones shares her volunteer experience at United Way’s Find Your Future: Career Exploration Fair. Learn about more volunteer opportunities here.
My alarm was set for 6 a.m. I think the anticipatory rush of seeing over 2,000 Detroit high schoolers in search of their futures and having the honor of being a part of assisting them on their journeys had me a bit overzealous.
At 7 a.m., I donned my snazziest business casual attire, keeping in mind that it all had to complement the uniform — a Live United volunteer T-shirt — for United Way’s Find Your Future: Career Exploration Fair for ninth-grade students.
Working with youth and the community in several capacities over the years, I have come across many a United Way volunteer, but today was going to be my first time proudly joining the ranks along with a few hundred eager business professionals.
We all showed up around the same time, which made parking a bit interesting. But after a much needed jolt of java, a run down of my volunteer task, and all the warm faces of United Way staff and other volunteers, I was ready to encourage our city’s best and brightest.
As a recording artist, arts educator, U.S. Cultural Ambassador, and advocate, I think back to how I took my leap of faith. Even after receiving my bachelor’s degree and trying a 9 to 5 on for size, if it wasn’t for the mentors, friends and family members who highlighted my gifts and pushed me to pursue my purpose, I doubt I would have had the courage to to step into my purpose fully.
Volunteering in the capacity of a vision facilitator resonated deeply with me, I remember what it was like being young and feeling a bit unsure of my place in the world. As an educator, I often come in contact with so many of our youth who are unaware of the possibilities of their greatness.
Assisting in this small portion of what was a smorgasbord of opportunities, from the college booths, to the workshops, to the social media and branding booths, the local Detroit businesses specializing in everything from technology to entertainment to finance, moved me.
Each volunteer played their role, and though I may have only been in contact with a total of 20 youth, I knew my presence made a difference for every young person there. Watching them strive to make a difference and better themselves for a better Michigan, deeply inspired me.
Giving back is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
I pray to keep making Living United my lifestyle.