A local youth development organization is teaching kids about the power of community service and working to show them that they are not too young to help improve West Linn.

Camp Fire Columbia, a nonprofit organization that serves 3,500 youth annually throughout the greater metro area, recently launched a before-and after-school program at Trillium Creek Primary School in West Linn-Wilsonville School District. Throughout the year, Camp Fire youth in grades kindergarten through fifth are leading service learning projects in their school and neighborhoods.

In March, Camp Fire youth partnered with Neighbors for a Livable West Linn to help connect low-income children with computers. Camp Fire youth led a recycled can and bottle drive throughout their school and neighborhoods.

The proceeds go to NLWL’s Computers for Kids program. The drive concludes Sunday and youth will donate the raised funds to NLWL in late March.

In the fall, students conducted a coat drive to provide low-income families with warm winter clothing. Camp Fire hopes to operate another service project in West Linn in the spring, perhaps with an environmental focus.

As part of March’s can drive, Camp Fire youth took leadership roles in each phase of the project, from outreach in their school and neighborhoods to weekly collections. All the while, they were practicing math, finance, public speaking and teamwork skills while developing compassion for others and a commitment to civic engagement.

“Service projects are a way for kids to improve West Linn right now, but more importantly they are a way for youth to develop into future leaders that are passionate about being civically engaged,” said Kirsi Baird Barber, program director of Camp Fire’s Before and After School Programs.

Each week in Camp Fire’s before- and after-school program at Trillium Creek Primary School, students are immersed in service learning, creative arts, physically active recreation, and a rotating menu of six- to eight-week subject-specific “clubs.” Each club allows kids to explore new skills and knowledge in subjects as diverse as yoga, soccer, skateboarding, cooking, animals and books.

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