Sam Beard on Youth Service

February 17, 2016 by mitchellcohen

In 1972, Sam Beard co-founded the Jefferson Awards Foundation along with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and U.S. Senator Robert Taft, Jr. to create a Nobel Prize for public service.

He has had the privilege of initiating and then chairing programs for seven Presidents of the United States: Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush.

By Sam Beard

Sam BeardThe original goal of the Jefferson Awards Foundation was to make public service more attractive. Through celebration, we inspired people to join.

Over the last few years however, the organization has added a powerful new component—one that I’m proudest of. We’ve transformed the organization into one that changes lives by training young students with practical leadership skills.

Most schools focus on academic excellence and training. What we provide are the life skills needed beyond academic achievement: emotional intelligence, teamwork, creating a simple plan, and most importantly—the will to get started. In short, we teach young people how to take an idea and turn it into a reality.

Our Students In Action (SIA) program is active in 400 schools and develops students into community leaders. Each school activates service projects in their community and produces near universal graduation rates for those who are a part of our program. To date, SIA has trained over 16,000 teenagers who have generated 17,000,000 hours of service.

GlobeChangers has provided 150 students with the mentorship and training to grow their own service projects. The average age of a GlobeChanger is 14 years old, and each one impacts an average of 35,000 lives.

LEAD360 asks young people for their solutions to problems they care about. After a BIG IDEAS contest and online voting, three winners are selected each year and their projects are activated across the country. To date, last year’s winners have impacted 9 million lives.

Sam PhotoI have found that young people are eager to learn about public service because of what they gain from it. When you are helping somebody else, you feel good about it. It’s rewarding. Volunteering brings a feeling of accomplishment and a sense of joy. That’s why I absolutely believe that service is tied to a power higher than ourselves—and why there is nothing more important than instilling service into the next generation.

When I have the privilege of talking with kids of any age, I always emphasize self empowerment. I have had the privilege of creating and running a program from the past seven Presidential Administrations. And I know the kids in our programs are able to make the same impact I have by thinking big, having self confidence, and putting their ideas into action.

So if you have a big idea, go for it! Work hard and rally people around you. That’s the ultimate lesson we want our youth programs to instill—the most important thing is to pick your project and get going.

Sam Beard is the Co-Founder and President of the Jefferson Awards Foundation.


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