Hello SEA homeschoolers! I am Susan Moss O’Donnell the volunteer coordinator for the SEA Homeschoolers 2018 Atlanta Convention. Julianna Speers is the teen volunteer coordinator, and she was also the teen volunteer coordinator for last year’s convention

Since this will be my first SEA convention, and I don’t know quite what to expect, I talked to Julianna about teens volunteering at last year’s convention.

I found her thoughts interesting, and I’m sharing our conversation. Hopefully it helps other teens to learn a little more about the SEA convention and possibly volunteering this year. Juliana and I also talked about  baby goats, our cats, Frozen (the movie), Try Not to Laugh videos, last year’s dance party, and the President’s Volunteer Service Award https://www.presidentialserviceawards.gov

We’ve also posted teen dance party pics on Instagram #atSEA2018

Please share your own Instagram pics  #atSEA2018. We would love to see more of the homeschool teen dance party, volunteering, kids, pets, or whatever you want to share!!

Enjoy!

Susan Moss O’Donnell (SMO): Hi Julianna. Thanks for talking with me about convention volunteering. Hard to believe you are only a teenager. Would you like to tell me about yourself and family?

Julianna Speers (JS): I live with my mom and dad in western New York. My sister and brother are older and married, and they don’t live too far away from us, which is nice since I still get to see them pretty often. I have another “sister” who has two small children. She is really my sister’s best friend but she has been a part of our family since before I was born, so she is just like a sister to me. We watch her children 4 days a week so we are all a big family.

We live on a goat farm. We have sixty goats in total. Probably half of them are babies which are fun. I also have a barn cat that happens to be very friendly. She started hanging out with me while I do gardening.

Her name is Snowball. The kids I babysit named her after Snowflake, another cat of mine. The funny thing is that Snowball looks nothing like snow or a snowball. She has only one tiny little speck of white fur; Snowflake was the same. Her name came from the movie Frozen. I was crazy about the movie Frozen, and Snowflake came around about the time I was having a Frozen-themed party, so I gave her the name Snowflake. It just kind of stuck.

SMO: Sixty goats. Wow! You must have fun with the babies. My sons—I have twin nine-year-olds – got to help with a goat farm last summer at their sleepaway camp. But they didn’t have nearly that many goats. My boys liked feeding the baby goats that would climb on top of them. The camp sent me a few cute pictures.

I live in Atlanta, Georgia with my sons and their dad. We’ve been homeschooling for about four years. We also have a cat named Pawz. He’s a ginger with orange stripes. He’s a little feisty and likes chasing mice and cockroaches in our yard. Pawz would enjoy being a barn cat, I think. I should introduce him to Snowball.

SMO: You volunteered at last year’s convention, how long have you been volunteering your time?

JS: It has been many, many years since I started volunteering. I’ve volunteered with local festivals, nature centers, and there’s a youth group that I’m really involved with, and of course my favorite camp, Camp Pioneer. Every year around Memorial Day they have a work weekend at the camp, and we always choose to do the unique and artistic painting jobs.

JS: Last year was actually kind of funny. We helped with painting one of their shelters, Wendt Shelter. It’s a very nice shelter, and they use it for weddings. They wanted the backdrop in the shelter painted 3 different shades of blue. This was really exciting. I mean we were climbing scaffolding to paint the backdrop which was very large and made entirely of wood paneling. It was a very big job. But we did it, and it looked great. Everyone was really happy.

JS: So we were a little surprised at this year’s work weekend when they told us, “Guess what you’ll be painting this year? Wendt Shelter!” Well, as it turned out, shades of blue didn’t go over too well with wedding parties and brides, who were very picky, and so they wanted us to paint the backdrop in shades of tan. So we painted it all over, again! And now we’re wondering what color they’ll want it painted next year, lavender maybe. Anyway, it was fun. I always have fun volunteering.

JS: Actually, since last August, I think I’ve put in about 160 volunteer hours. I have a log book set aside for tracking my hours. So when I work a specific job, I write in the hours and then the person in charge signs their name. Like with Camp Pioneer the camp director signed my log. There is a President’s Volunteer Service Award in which the sitting president will recognize and award different levels depending upon the number of hours you work. I have already qualified for the highest level which is gold.

SMO: Wow, 160 hours in less than a year is a huge accomplishment. You have definitely put in the work to earn the president’s award.

SMO: When you volunteered with last year’s convention, what was your job, and what was most rewarding? What was the most fun?

JS: Teens signed in with me in the morning. At the end of the day they signed out, and I kept track of their service hours and jobs. Before the conference, I designed a volunteer log for recording hours and jobs everyone did. Sometimes teens would miss checking in, but I would hunt them down 😉 to make sure their hours got logged.

JS: I found that it was most rewarding helping people when they were in need on their way to sessions or just around the convention. To be honest I really enjoyed volunteering with the other kids! They were all very friendly and fun to be with.

SMO: I think that’s a nice way to sum up volunteering. It makes YOU feel good to help someone, and it can be fun especially if you’re with other people.

SMO: About how many other teens volunteered with you? Did you hang out together when you weren’t volunteering?

JS: I probably worked with seven or eight other kids. It sounds like a really small group but we all had so much fun together especially when the day was over and we could just go play and chill out.

JS: Last year’s convention was in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, which is a small town, with a lot of little shops and unique places to see. Almost every night when we were done with events for the day, we’d walk into the town. There was a nice park nearby with cool rocks for climbing. The one night we all went to one of the hotels to swim, unfortunately, the pool was already closed. Instead, we ended up watching Try Not to Laugh videos.

SMO: Ha! Those videos must be popular. My nine-year-old twins tell me all about them and how funny they are. They love those videos.

JS: And one more thing, THE FORMAL! When another homeschooling group nearby had a formal they invited us to join. There was a great DJ, nice food, and the dance floor was jam-packed. They even had a photo booth! Everyone was dancing, singing, and just goofing around. It was lots of fun.

SMO: Did you know any of the other teens before the convention? Did you keep in touch after the convention?

JS: I only knew one kid that I’d met once before, but everyone was super friendly and incredibly inclusive. As soon as I got there they were telling me “Hey come over here and hang out with us!” Kids were so friendly that it wasn’t a problem.

JS: I kept in touch with some after the convention; we look forward to seeing each other this year. I think everyone keeps in touch with Snapchat or Instagram or something else. I know some are going off to college or graduating or just busy like most homeschoolers are, but I know that I will see the majority of them!

SMO: For a teen who has never volunteered before, what would you say to encourage them to try it? Do you think it’s a good way to meet other teens?

JS: Volunteering really gives you the whole experience and definitely helps you meet other kids especially if you aren’t an outgoing person, which is totally okay! I think either way is fine. You can still meet other teens if you don’t volunteer.

It would be great if we could get more teen volunteers signed up!!