Posted by Bob Saline on Nov 07, 2019
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Rotary International in 2005, the Youth Community Development Team (YCDT) was created by the Rotary Club of Harrisburg (RCH) in partnership with Leadership Harrisburg Area, The Foundation for Enhancing Communities, The Patriot News, United Way of the Capital Region and many dedicated volunteers in 2004.  The initial goals established by the RCH founders were to provide area youth guidance in entrepreneurship, leadership and philanthropy.
The objectives of the YCDT program, to be achieved through a real experience, encourages students:
  • to identify and focus on an area of community need.
  • to raise money toward providing a solution for that area of focus.
  • to select and provide grants to a community organization addressing those needs through community service hours. 
The RCH YCDT program is provided for students in the Harrisburg School District and Bishop McDevitt High School.  Each year, 30 students are selected for this intensive 9-month leadership and community development program.  It is a highly competitive selection process. 
RCH’s Youth Community Development Team Continues to Evolve
This year, under the guidance of RCH members Brad Gebhart and Andy Phillips YCDT Co-chairs, the youth combined their love of the arts and the need to address issues of mental health such as anxiety and depression affecting all high school students.  The YCDT participants designed a blend of these issues as a solution to allocating their monies. 
After interviewing three nonprofits that dealt with art therapy, the YCDT team members determined that a regionally based Bridge of Hope program was the most concise, effective and best return on their investment dollars.  Bridge of Hope was awarded the students’ grant of $5,000 to initiate an arts program for children called Art Feeds.  The curriculum, training package and art supplies were funded by the students’ grant.
The YCDT Teams’ initiative then came full circle.  Once the implementation of the Bridges of Hope’s art therapy program began, the YCDT youth took their financial commitment one step further and gleefully volunteered to participate with the children. 
While there are many real outcomes of the YCDT program that increase confidence in the students who participate; transform attitudes, broaden perspectives and plant the seeds of friendship and understanding across cultural and socioeconomic boundaries, measurable outcomes are to:
  • Increase student exposure to the greater Harrisburg community and their awareness of local resources.
  • Develop and improve students’ oral communication & presentation skills.
  • Increase student application of collaboration, negotiation, compromise, and persuasive skills.
  • Provide students with a forum to serve the community and demonstrate an impact.
On average, YCDT students raise and donate $5,000 per year to a community group.  Previous community organizations and recipients of YCDT funding have included: Beautify the Burg, The Silence of Mary, Drug Free PA, The Joshua Group, Channels Food Rescue and Bridge of Hope. 
YCDT students are left to right, Hannasy Rodgers, Dean Robbins, Anthony Larry, Mary Parker.
In the front row Sophie Alaniz and J.D. Edwards.