Ask Carolyn Zeibig about the logging of California's Headwaters Redwood Forest, and you may learn something surprising.
"This is one of the only few ancient forests left in the world. It's amazing that people don't know what's happening around them."Last year, Zeibig traveled to California to help environmental group Earth First! at a rally to protect the Headwaters Forest. Although not directly participating in the pro-test, Zeibig - who is not an official member of the group - helped out by distributing pamphlets and talking to new Earth First! members.
"The day we got to camp we had a discussion with new members on how to protest peacefully," she said. "Because if you behave violently, you don't get your point across."
Zeibig is just one of Utah's many teen volunteers. In the socially conscious '90s, teens can be found helping out at a variety of environmental, community and charity organizations.
Eric Cooper, assistant director of the Utah Food Bank, said Utah teens get involved in voluntarism for a variety of reasons.
"There's almost a culture developing now among teens that's community and environmentally friendly," he said. "In Utah, there's a tremendous amount of youth looking for activity. Whether their activities are attached to school, church or clubs, they do them largely to have fun and to do something constructive."
Stephen Pugh, a junior at Judge Memorial High School, is such a teenager. Pugh is involved in the Masonic youth group DeMolay. This group, on average, does a community service project every month. Pugh said the projects range from singing for burn victims at Shriner's Hospital to painting over graffiti.
Pugh said that all of his volunteer work, especially singing for the burn victims, has been a positive experience.
"Every one of the kids had a smile on their face when we were done," he said. "It was good to know I'd made a difference for kids who sometimes have a pretty bleak life."
Pugh also volunteers for other groups around the valley. He has worked with Catholic Community Services for the past four months and once helped set up a presentation at the Salt Lake Arts Center.
Teens should volunteer to become more well-rounded, Pugh said.
"Volunteering really broadens your perspective," he said. "If you're only involved in school activities and not involved in the environment and other issues, you don't see the full perspective."
Teens also become involved in community projects out of concern for others.
Sequan Thomas, who works with the Utah AIDS Foundation, became a volunteer out of concern for some of her sexually active friends.
"I was aware of the threat of AIDS and wanted to learn more about it for myself and to make my friends aware," she said. "The more teens I saw being stupid and not caring about AIDS made me want to become more involved."
Thomas has worked with the Utah AIDS Foundation for two years. She travels to public schools, universities and juvenile detention centers teaching AIDS and HIV 101, or basic awareness of HIV transmission and prevention. She will also become the coordinator of the youth outreach program, which will begin as soon as the foundation has enough funding.
Thomas said that it was important for teens to become involved in such programs as the AIDS Foun-dation.
"It shows their peers that AIDS is an important subject," she said. "It shows adults that a lot of kids want to change the way things are going. Teens can also add new ideas and aspects towards AIDS education. For example, I've had some kids tell me they can relate to me and that they don't want an adult to come and talk to them instead."
Chayen "Amy" Liu, a senior at Salt Lake Lutheran High School, volunteers at the Utah Youth Village, an organization that helps children from broken families. Liu decided to volunteer at the organization after finding its number in a volunteer brochure. She has worked at the Utah Youth Village for almost a year.
Although not allowed to directly work with the children, Liu said she is given other tasks to do.
"It depends on what they need," she said. "Sometimes, I help with mailing, paperwork for fund-raising events and setting up events downtown."
Liu also said that her volunteer work has taught her a variety of skills.
"It's pretty cool to learn things from the organization, like communication skills and how to make files," she said, "I think contributing your time to help others is a good thing to do. I really enjoy it."
Teens who get involved at the food bank often end up enjoying themselves as well, Cooper said. He also said that the many teen volunteers he works with are enthusiastic and community-oriented.
"Those teens who want to be here are very mature," he said. "They're secure in themselves, optimistic and think they can make a change. They're also very well networked and often bring in other youth to help out."
Cooper also said that volunteer work done at the food bank and other organizations is beneficial for teens in a variety of ways. This work can teach teens the necessity of such things as donating food and making laws to safeguard the poor, Cooper said.
"It's critical for our organization to get teens to help because they are our leaders and donors of tomorrow," he said. "If they don't understand the need in poverty, then they won't understand what it means to take care of the community."
Zeibig, who will be helping at another protest in California this year, also added that teen volunteers are often the lifeblood of any organization.
"Teens can bring more unique ideas to an organization that an older generation wouldn't think about," she said. "Bringing in a younger generation will definitely keep an organization going for years to come."
Teens interested in volunteering around the state can contact various organizations for further information. They can also contact a variety of individuals and organizations who need help by calling the Volunteer Center, Community Services Council, at 978-2452.