Kefee Granite lives in Grandview Heights, but the 27-year-old Dublin Scioto High School graduate said it was the volunteer experience she had as a kid growing up in Dublin that inspired her career path.
Granite graduated from Scioto in 2010. Prior to that, she first participated in Wyandot Elementary School's summer camp from grades 2-6 and Camp Project LEED in grades 6-8 during the summers of 2004 through 2006.
Through the city of Dublin's Project LEED day camp program, Granite had an opportunity to return to the Wyandot summer camp, this time as a junior counselor.
The experience, she said, helped her realize she had a passion for working with children, eventually leading to a bachelor's degree in early childhood development from Ohio State University and a job as a developmental pediatric occupational therapist at the Nationwide Children's Hospital outpatient clinic.
LEED also offered the opportunity for Granite to hear from mentors.
Speakers or counselors would often talk to them about the program's pillars of leadership, ethics, esteem and duty, she said.
"They laid a firm foundation for me at such a young age," she said.
LEED alumni such as Granite can now reflect on their time in the program and how it influenced them as adults. LEED has been a Dublin city program for 20 years, and community youth still participate in the summer camp program that focuses on volunteerism.
The camp was started as a response to the need for middle school-age programming in the city's recreation services as well as a way to seize the opportunity to offer volunteer engagement at the same time, said Christine Nardecchia, Dublin's director of volunteer resources.
When parents learned the city had a new volunteer program, they began to call her, wanting to "sign up" their middle schoolers for volunteer service during the summer months five days a week, all day long, Nardecchia said.
"Rather than saying, 'No, we don't offer anything,' Rec Services and the volunteer program teamed up to strategize this program," she said.
"It's a fantastic partnership between two city divisions (Recreation Services and Outreach and Engagement)," she said. "It's a great example of Dublin's responsiveness and innovation."
Enrollment for the program is capped at 44 youths for each session, Nardecchia said. There are two sessions per summer.
The goal of the program is to focus on the four pillars of leadership, ethics, esteem and duty -- LEED -- through volunteer engagement and recreation activity, Nardecchia said.
Teen participants help in their own community in parks, with senior citizens and for programs and events, Nardecchia said.
The program also introduces them to a perspective outside of Dublin life in rural and inner- city areas where, through volunteerism, they see outside themselves and how they can be of service to others, she said.
The experience helps volunteers understand the difference they can make as individuals and they also work together as a team, Nardecchia said. Many previous participants also stay on to help as adults, she said.
Rob Burda, also 27, heard about the LEED program through Nardecchia, when he approached her as a sixth-grader wanting to get involved in volunteering.
Burda, a Dublin resident and Jerome High School graduate, participated in the program from 2004 to 2006 during grades 6-8. The experience, he said, shaped his direction and path. As an adult, Burda said, he is trying to be a role model and coaches the Dublin United Soccer Club. In LEED, Burda got to spend time as a junior counselor at other Dublin summer camps, like Granite did.
"These kids really looked up to us," Burda said. "They wanted us to be there."
Today's LEED participants are creating experiences on which they can look back.
Julien Brandon, a 13-year-old Dublin resident and eighth-grader at St. Andrew School, is participating in LEED for the first time after hearing about it from his sister, Jackie.
"I tried it out myself," Julien said.
Thus far, Julien said his experience has been fun. He has been volunteering at youth camps at Wyandot Elementary School, Eli Pinney Elementary School and the Dublin Community Recreation Center, he said, as well as area retirement villages and COSI. He said he most enjoyed volunteering with Canine Collective because that's where his own dog, Bailey, came from.
He and other LEED volunteers cleaned dogs' water buckets and made posters for adoption, he said.
"It was a great experience," he said.
Olivia Wirth, a 14-year-old Dublin Coffman High School freshman, said she began volunteering with LEED when she was 12.
One of the things she said she has most enjoyed is volunteering at Huckleberry House, a home for children and teens. She said the program helped teach her about leadership and made her realize how grateful she is for what she has in her life.
"It just gives me a really good feeling, volunteering," she said.