Salvation Army Aurora Corps fosters youth skill development through internship

Salvation Army Aurora Corps fosters youth skill development through internship

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Regis Jesuit high school students in Aurora, Colorado, dedicated their time to the community and developed valuable life skills along the way.

Eight students from Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colorado, dedicated 60 hours of volunteer work with The Salvation Army Aurora Corps. The goal? To boost community engagement and equip young individuals with skills for their future.

The students, referred to as interns, served in January as part of a school requirement for juniors and seniors to complete a two-week volunteer project of their choice while pausing traditional classroom schooling. 

Students chose The Salvation Army from a collection of community organizations and nonprofits that work with underrepresented communities.

Once Aurora Colorado Corps officers Lieutenants Carl and Melissa Esquivel learned of the school program in 2021, they were eager to invite students to collaborate.

“We’re very passionate toward youth leadership development,” said Lt. Carl Esquivel. “I heard about the program, made a connection at Regis Jesuit and now we’ve been able to mentor students.”

The students’ engagement with The Salvation Army has expanded each year, with Esquivel noting the corps had double the number of interns over the previous year—which helps the corps help the community.

According to Esquivel, the Aurora Corps serves roughly 34,000 individuals annually, providing a range of services that facilitate valuable learning experiences for the students.

“They’re engaged in real work and gain practical experience in clerical duties, hospitality and intake processing with our social services,” said Esquivel. “They’re very much involved.”

During the internship, students received task-specific training from department leaders. They assisted with food preparation, pantry organization and client assistance at the front desk, among other tasks. Additionally, they supported visitors in completing paperwork for utility and mortgage assistance. 

Esquivel also took interns to community gatherings to teach them the importance of community partnerships. They attended a local Rotary Club gathering and even met with the mayor of Aurora.

“Everything we involve them with is to create a lasting impact,” said Esquivel.

Salvation Army Aurora Corps fosters youth skill development through internship
Senior high school students Cole Oliver (back) and Alan Eiseman (front)  prepare dog food at The Salvation Army Aurora Colorado Corps food pantry. Courtesy The Salvation Army Aurora Colorado Corps.

For high school junior Peyten Pack, learning to operate the front desk showed the value of order and attention to detail.

“I have learned the importance of organization and cleanliness,” said Pack. 

She said that working in an office setting helped her recognize the importance of structure and organization, differing from her tendency to be unorganized and misplace items in her everyday life.

“Through working with The Salvation Army, I have begun to realize the ease and efficiency that comes through proper organization,” said Pack. “It was a good experience because it taught me organization, customer service and the value of set systems.”

For Pack, the most memorable aspect of the internship was connecting with clients.

“I really liked getting to talk to people,” she said.

She said connecting with the public offered valuable insights into effective and compassionate communication, leading to advancements in her interpersonal skills.

When a man and his daughter approached the front desk, Pack noticed they were hard of hearing and communicated with American Sign Language (ASL) to greet them and introduce herself.

“She was happy that I was reaching out in a way familiar to her,” Pack said. “Reaching out to others in a way that allows them to connect with you can help them realize that you are there with them.”

Pack said working alongside her peers to problem solve and complete a goal left her encouraged and passionate about the work—something research published in the National Library of Medicine supports. 

A study by Jinho Kim and Kerem Morgül of the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that involving youth in volunteering can enhance factors such as self-esteem, which can help manage negative emotions like depression, anxiety and stress. Additionally, researchers reported volunteering can promote social connections by decreasing feelings of isolation and increasing peer support.

“It is such fulfilling work,” Pack said. “I never went home feeling less about myself for doing so. I have never talked to someone who regretted volunteering their time, but I have met many who say they regret not getting involved in their community through volunteer work.”

Esquivel said he also experienced growth over the course of the program in the interns’ customer service skills, organizational strategies and culinary abilities.

He said some interns also develop a newfound appreciation for volunteer work and choose to return to the corps after graduation, recalling one student who returned during a college break to give back.

“It’s great to provide these long-term benefits as we prepare them for the real world,” Esquivel said.

Do Good:

  • Whether it’s through opportunities with The Salvation Army or elsewhere, your gifts are needed. You are needed. If you choose to cultivate these nine habits of impactful volunteers, you will make a difference in the lives of others. When you strive to do good, you help build a safer world for all and give others a lasting display of the love behind your beliefs. Get the guide on How To Be An Impactful Volunteer and join us in Doing Good today.
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