Global Youth Service Day Interview with Grace Manning

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April isn’t just about spring showers and blooming flowers; it’s National Volunteer Week! This week is a vibrant celebration of the everyday heroes who dedicate their time and energy to making a difference, particularly to a certain group of people who don’t get much spotlight in the volunteer scene: youth!

Youth bring fresh perspectives, boundless energy, and a willingness to learn that injects a powerful spark into any cause. Whether it’s planting trees for a greener future, organizing a book drive for children impacted by foster care, or mentoring younger students, young volunteers are making ripples in their communities.

This National Volunteer Week, we’ll be highlighting the amazing work our Teen Leadership Program (TLP) members have been engaged with since August!

Read more about their impact on our interview with Grace and her experience of leading the group’s second year of coordinating a major Spelling Bee event with Corners Outreach.



Q: What is your group project about and what made you want to create your project?
A: My group project is focused on supporting Title I Kids with their education. Many Title I students are learning English as their second language and aren’t provided the same resources as other kids their age.

I believe that every child deserves support and equal opportunities, so I helped create our project to do just that. Our group project tutors Title I students, volunteers with education-based nonprofits, runs after-school snack drives, and hosts an annual spelling bee with Corners Outreach.

Q: What skills did you gain or develop as a teen leader, and how did you apply those skills to lead your project?
A: I learned what a growth mindset is and how to apply it to my service project. Every year, I take time to reflect on my project. I think about how I executed my goals, the challenges I faced, and how I dealt with criticism and obstacles. After I have reflected, I set new goals to expand my project and conduct it in a more efficient way.

For example, this year, our spelling bee went well, but I would like to give the kids more resources to prepare for it since they would like more words to practice with. So next year, I will make practice worksheets for them and work with their afterschool teachers to implement a Word of the Day.

Q: What challenges did you encounter while working on your project, and how did you overcome them?
A: It was challenging to organize the preliminary spelling bee rounds. Corners Outreach has over 100 students, and some of them were absent because they were receiving extra help from their teachers after school. To track which kids I tested, what their results were, and what words I used, I created spreadsheets and organized a meeting with the staff of Corners Outreach. Thus, we were able to quiz the students who still needed to be tested, and we could monitor our progress.

Q: Tell us how the TLP supported your goals as a teen leader and what your next steps are after completing this TLP year.
A: Since the TLP is comprised of like-minded teens, we support each other’s goals and provide support when needed. When a member of my service team chooses to peruse a service project, we all support it and delegate roles. For example, to run the spelling bee, we delegated the tasks to ensure no one was doing all the work. Some members fundraised books, some prepared the students, and some coordinated with the nonprofit Corners Outreach. In doing so, we learned communication, time management, and leadership skills.

​​Next year, my goal is to create a digital notebook with everything needed to run the spelling bee so that even after I graduate, it can continue. In addition, I would like to help Corners Outreach expand the spelling bee program across multiple locations, since it’s only offered in the Dunwoody location as of now.

Q: Describe a time when you felt really proud of yourself as a teen leader.
A: I feel very proud when I see the students at Corners Outreach smile after they have accomplished something, such as finally understanding a math problem or spelling a word correctly. It makes me happy to know that they are proud of themselves and are doing well. It motivates me to continue to expand my project to help more students.

Q: In honor of Global Volunteer Month, who inspires you and why?
A: Ms. Jen inspires me because she has made such an impact on many people’s lives through volunteerism. She created Pebble Tossers to provide volunteer opportunities to kids, but throughout the process, she has inspired hundreds of people of all ages to volunteer. Her story motivates me to fine tune my project so that I can be able to have a lasting program that inspires students to pursue their education, similarly to how Ms. Jen inspires people to pursue volunteerism.

Q: Imagine you’re giving a TED Talk about a leadership lesson you learned. What’s the title and your main takeaway message?
A: The title would be “Don’t Stress Over the Small Things,” and the main takeaway would be to focus on the whole picture instead of the little things. When you focus on small details, it’s very easy to become stressed and forget your initial goal. Instead, break up your goal into broader topics and focus on the details after solidifying the important things. Also, understand that nothing plays out exactly how it was planned, so instead of getting caught up in a hiccup, focus on executing your goal.


Join the Teen Leadership Program!
Applications to join the 2024-25 Teen Leadership Program are open to all rising 9th-12 graders in the metro Atlanta Area. Learn more about how teen leadership can activate positive change in their world and apply today!

We are looking for advisors ages 22+ to serve as mentors/positive role models for the program. Interesting in helping teens? Contact Earline at for more information.