Between mentor orientation in Phoenix, learning about all our various projects, and traveling to Los Angeles to meet with my southern California teams, my first few months as a team mentor were everything I had hoped for and more. As the California NGC mentor, I am here to support the eleven NGC teams, either new or returning, that are located in California. My job is to provide a connection between the teams and NGC headquarters, to use my own NGC experiences to help them with fundraising and awareness event ideas, to address any questions or concerns the teams face, and to attend all the events planned by the teams.
During the first three weeks I managed to meet with all my teams, establishing a relationship with the team leaders, discussing their goals for the upcoming year, and solving any problems they were facing. Some teams were NGC pros, returning after years of running their club and ready with a project, fundraising ideas, and high recruiting numbers. For example, Oxford Academy in Southern California chose the Amahoro Association in Rwanda, a grassroots offering orphans an education, HIV prevention, health care, post-trauma counseling, and youth microenterprise trainings. With a team of about 35, the Oxford Academy team has a series of events planned for this upcoming year. Their first awareness campaign will be this month and is called “Silent Vigil”, a week in which they cover their school in facts about their cause through the use of signs, chalking, banners, posters, and window paint. They are also organizing a “Walk for Hope”, a car wash, and another awareness week with activities for later months. The Oxford team’s final event of the year will be a benefit concert that features local up and coming bands (usually YouTube stars) and that in the past has generated a couple thousand dollars. Believe it or not, the “problem” the team leaders of this group came to me with was they felt they were not planning enough events and could do even more. Talk about drive and determination.
Other teams that are newer and less established than Oxford, needed more help with organization, planning, recruitment, and finding fundraising and awareness campaign ideas that I was more than happy to provide. Some common challenges teams face are strict administrations that refuse to approve the majority of their ideas, or worse refused to approve their club in general. Irvington HS and Mitty HS were at first turned down by their schools, but persevered and were then allowed to create their own NGC clubs. When addressing other problems with admin, I found that a lot of team leaders were so exasperated by their admin, and had been disappointed so many times that they were at the brink of just giving up. Together we worked together to either find admin proof fundraising ideas, or ways we could move around the restrictions set by the admin (without breaking any rules of course). Overall, these teams just needed an inspirational, encouraging talk after being discouraged by the admin. Another problem a lot of my teams came to me with was competition with other service clubs at their school for members and for events. Many clubs felt like they could do nothing because they had only managed to recruit a couple members. We solved this problem by kicking off their club year with an awareness campaign of flyers, posters, and signs that not only educated the public about their project but also advertised their club. Some clubs also hosted small events that they hoped would draw in more members as well.
One of the most important aspects of my job, in my opinion, is bridging the gap between the teams and their projects. NGC works with its partners and grassroot orgs to connect teams with important information relevant to their projects as well as speakers, skype calls to the project site, and other similar opportunities. By offering these opportunities to my teams I feel they become more motivated and receive more tangible results after all their hard work. Currently Jennifer is working to connect Oxford to a speaker from Amahoro or their partner org CHABHA, and many other teams are in the process of scheduling Skype calls with their project partners.
I was also assigned a couple of teams who had never worked with NGC including Calabasas HS, Irvington HS, and Paly HS. These teams were especially exciting to work with because I witnessed them transition from being nervous and unsure to calling me excited, and so proud after their successful first meeting. With these teams I mainly focus on explaining them the fundamentals of leading an NGC team, and giving them examples of what past teams have accomplished. So far all three new teams have successfully formed groups of at least ten members and have all chosen projects.
Not matter which team I was meeting however, I was always impressed by their enthusiasm, determination, and ability to think of new creative ideas. Although I do use the experience I gained during my four years as an NGC leader in high school to help my teams, the majority of feedback I share with them is inspired by the dozens of unique fundraiser and education project ideas other teams think of. In fact I find myself constantly thinking as I’m meeting with team leaders, “Wow… why didn’t we think of that.” So like almost all my activities with NGC, my role as a team leader has resulted in yet another mutually beneficial relationship in which I not only help guide NGC clubs, but also am in turn rewarded with a fulfilling and educational experience. There is nothing better than a phone call from an excited team leader describing a successful NGC meeting to pick up your day. 🙂