Hilton Head mayor encourages youth to lend helping hands

Cash-strapped nonprofit groups could get more help from younger hands because of a program launched by Hilton Head Island's mayor.

Drew Laughlin and event organizer Leslie Richardson on Wednesdayunveiled the Mayor's Youth Volunteer Service Award.

"It's a way of focusing our volunteer efforts and getting young people involved in service to their community very early," Laughlin said before a group of island school principals and administrators.

Hilton Head middle and high school students who complete at least 50 hours of community service will be eligible for the annual award.

Most schools on Hilton Head require students to perform community service.

Hilton Head Island High School, for example, requires 100 hours of community service to earn a diploma from the International Baccalaureate program. School clubs also volunteer with area nonprofit groups by picking up trash on the beach or tutoring.

"It's a great way to really look at the kids doing positive things in our community," Hilton Head High assistant principal Sandra Jensen said.

Laughlin and Richardson asked the administrators to appoint a coordinator at their schools to educate students, work with the mayor's office to tell them about volunteer opportunities and compile lists of those eligible for the award.

Wednesday's timing could not have been better for Hilton Head Preparatory School, which wants to do more community service initiatives, Headmaster Anthony Kandel said. The school requires 40 hours of community service for upper-school students.

Kandel hopes the award will encourage students to give back and entice nonprofit groups to join with schools to provide volunteer work for students.

Richardson wants students to host a volunteer fair where teens can learn about the needs and missions of local nonprofit groups.

"If we want to have amazing leaders tomorrow, we have to start today showing them how to be leaders," Richardson said.