Part of being a teen is finding your place in a community. One group of teens has found that as part of the Kentucky YMCA Youth Association's Y-Corps team.
The 42 high school students from all over the state are taking a weeklong road trip across Kentucky to participate in service projects and cultural activities.
"We want them to get the idea that service isn't just to put on a résumé, but it's a community," said Christina Libby, East Region director of KYYA.
As the group hiked in Red River Gorge on Tuesday, it was evident the teens did, indeed, see themselves as a community. Many of them didn't know one another before this week, but on just their third day, they cheered, chatted and helped one another like good friends.
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"The best part is the bonding over service," said Rachel Aretakis, 18, of Louisville. "We're always together."
The group started out Sunday in Frankfort, where they helped improve a community garden. On Monday, they went to Lexington and took a tour designed to show what it's like to be disabled, and they attended a benefit concert. After spending Tuesday hiking in Red River Gorge, the group plans to spend the rest of the week participating in service projects in Harrodsburg, Glasgow and Louisville.
KYYA has had service road trips since 1998. To go on the trip, students must have put in a minimum of 50 hours of community service and raised $500 for KYYA scholarships. For information, visit www.kyymca.org.
Though the Y-Corps group is having fun, they all said the service projects are the most important part of the trip.
"After a while, service just becomes part of your nature," said Morgan Reeves, 17, of Louisville. "Each activity gives you a new meaning for service."