MARQUETTE - Ben Harris concentrates on his school work, of course. And like many students his age, he has a part-time job. But there's another aspect of his life that he considers to be just as important - volunteering.
The 17-year-old senior at Marquette Senior High School is involved with a number of projects and organizations, ranging from youth journalism to music to holding a seat on the board of the Great Lakes Center for Youth Development.
"It's a great experience," Harris said of volunteer work. "You realize what you believe in."
It’s a great experience ... You realize what you
For Harris, volunteering began with his involvement with the youth journalism organization 8-18 Media through the Upper Peninsula Children's Museum. A member of the reporting staff for 10 years where he had the chance to attend the 2008 Democratic national convention, Harris said he began volunteering at trainings for younger 8-18 members.
"The more I got involved, the more I got to do," he said.
From there, a former 8-18 advisor recommended him for a position as a youth representative on the board of directors for the Great Lakes Center for Youth Development. A member since the beginning of his junior year of high school, the board seat gives Harris full voting privileges and the chance to help forward the mission of the organization as a member of a youth development task force.
"We focus on some of the issues that might get overlooked," he said.
As a member of the board, Harris has been involved in running a focus group at the Marquette Alternative High School, which examines more at-risk students and gauges their awareness of resources they can take advantage of in the area.
"It's really great," he said of working with the GLCYD. "Just the whole mission of making the community better for youth."
During the summer when he's not at school or at work, Harris volunteers his time at the Marquette Junior Yacht Club, helping to teach other kids one of his interests - sailing.
"I really enjoy it. If I can, I go down and help out most days of the week," he said.
During the school year, he's also a member of the National Honor Society, where one of his regular volunteer projects is to work with the fifth grade orchestra at the Bothwell Middle School. Offered as an after-school activity, the orchestra gives many fifth grade students what is their first chance to play an instrument.
A cello player since the third grade, Harris said he sees working with the orchestra a chance to help young performers get interested in music.
"It's had such a big influence on me," Harris said of being involved in music. "It's really fun because I can help them be inspired to make music."
Although juggling school, work and volunteering is sometimes a challenge, Harris said he manages to find time for each.
"It kind of all works out," he said.
With graduation coming up in the near future, Harris also has his sights set on a new project for the fall - studying abroad as part of a Rotary International exchange program in Ecuador for 10 months. Attending a high school there, Harris said he will have the chance to be immersed in the Spanish language and local culture of Ecuador.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.