Volunteering: Club Y.E.S. at Wayzata Schools

How Club Y.E.S. students are making a positive difference at Wayzata schools and beyond.
Wayzata High School students volunteer through Club Y.E.S. with the Caring For Kids and Empty Bowl's initiatives.

For 22 years, Wayzata High School students have been giving back to the community through the Club Y.E.S. program. This unique partnership between Wayzata High School and Community Education got its start when the original parent coordinator, Pam Infanger, who wanted her son to volunteer, started the club more than two decades ago.Mary Kay Williams, Club Y.E.S. coordinator, has been managing the program for 12 years and it is still going strong. “It is a safe place to belong,” Williams says. “It’s a town inside a city.” With more than 3,300 students on the Wayzata High School campus, Club Y.E.S.’s 700-plus members have a special connection with each other that stems from giving back to their community.  Club Y.E.S., which stands for Youth Extending Service, is the largest extracurricular in the school.From volunteering at Wayzata PTO carnivals to helping at the Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery, the outlets for community service through Club Y.E.S. are limited only by the imagination of its members, which seems boundless.  School policy dictates that the club cannot fundraise, but with its mission to create “an awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the community” in its students, it provides a wealth of sweat equity.There are many aspects of Club Y.E.S. that appeal to its members. “The best part of Y.E.S. is helping people. You can see their smiles. It may be a small difference, but it is a difference,” student Sophie Zhou says. Her classmate Shelby Rutzick agrees: “Once you see the difference, you want to continue with the program."In addition to making a positive change in their community, members have a powerful say in the projects they participate in during the year. “You pick what you are passionate about,” says past member Aubrey Miller.Many projects are school-focused, like Sarah Ernst’s initiative to increase all students’ understanding of adaptive sports programs (for students with cognitive and/or physical disabilities). “My brother is on the [physical impairment] team,” Ernst explains, “so I always go to his games.” Ernst gathered friends and other club members to start attending and raising awareness through posters and other marketing initiatives—they also encouraged the adaptive sports team members.“We sent notes to their classes on game days that said things like ‘Good luck!’ and ‘You’ll do great!’” she says. “They really enjoyed the notes and appreciation.”  Now, with Club Y.E.S.’s work, there is a growing number of spectators at the games to cheer for the players.Other projects are focused off-campus. In 2011, club members put forth the idea of performing a global service project. New last year were two such projects, one in which Club Y.E.S. members volunteer for Operation Smile, an organization that provides free surgeries to repair facial deformities for children around the world, and the other work with She’s the First, an organization that sponsors girls’ education in developing nations.Leadership is also a benefit of Club Y.E.S. There is a student advisory board that acts as a governing body for deciding the projects for the year—all with Williams’ oversight, of course.Students interested in being part of this board must apply and interview for a position and the interviews are administered by current advisory board members, all seniors this year.  This experience trains students for real-world job interviews. Club Y.E.S. members also show leadership in the ways they interact with other organizations. “They are representing the high school in the community,” Williams says. “They are just amazing.” As senior Paige Fellows explains, “Our reputation sets us apart. [Other organizations] see us and say, ‘These are good kids coming.’”The students feel respected by the school. “We have so much support from administration and staff,” Miller says. “They see what we’re trying to do, to give to a community who has given so much to us.”Most important, a great deal of good is getting done. Students logged more than 19,000 volunteer hours during the 2012-13 school year, and the passion for service is evident in talking with the advisory board members. “It’s not just a club,” Fellows says. “It’s an aspect of our lives.”