Volunteering benefits both the helper and the helped

Volunteer work is unique in its ability to improve the lives of those being helped as well as the helper. We go through life oscillating between needing a hand and being able to lend one. The key is finding something you’re passionate about and getting involved.

I’m passionate about making the world a better place for future generations. I believe I can do that best by working with kids with limited opportunities. Fortunately, I’ve found an organization that does just that — “I Have A Dream” Foundation of Boulder County.

“I Have A Dream” provides academic, cultural, and mentoring assistance to reduce high school dropout rates of underprivileged kids. “I Have A Dream” is unique because their assistance isn’t for a few weeks, months, or a year; the program provides aid throughout a youth’s schooling. In some cases, that’s an 11-year commitment. This long-term approach is a big part of why I wanted to get involved.

I started volunteering with “I Have A Dream” this year and am continually impressed with the difference they’re making. I, along with a group of elite-level runners, visit the fourth-grade cohort at Thunder Valley K-8 to support their programming and share our love of running with the kids. Most volunteer opportunities start with the desire to help and end up with both parties being better for it. One of my favorite things is the “circle” at the end of our sessions. The kids have an opportunity to respectfully address disagreements, express thanks, or send someone well wishes. Their genuine responses have really stuck with me. We hope the kids get as much out of our visits as we do.

“Help others achieve their dreams and you will achieve yours.” — Les Brown

By Kevin Purvis, founder of Boulder Running Project

Stuttering Awareness Week

National Stuttering Awareness Week began Monday. Did you know more than 3 million Americans stutter? That’s more than the populations of Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, North Dakota, and Washington, D.C., combined.

Up to 5 percent of children stutter for a time during their early developmental years.

In the spirit of spreading awareness, the most important thing you can do for someone who stutters — or for anyone you are speaking with — is listen. Listen to what they have to say rather than how they say it.

For more information, visit StutteringHelp.org.

By Jane Fraser, president of The Stuttering Foundation, Memphis, Tenn.

Public support for LGBTQ community building, but more is needed

I am writing in response to the April 7 article “Asexual people in Boulder County fight against notion of what makes a person whole.”

Individuals who identify as asexual in the Boulder community feel as though others are misled to believe their lack of sexual attraction is a problem that needs to be fixed in order to be happy. This misconception leads others who do experience sexual attraction to believe asexually is a problem. What if someone came to you trying to “fix” you simply because you have purple hair? There is nothing wrong with purple hair and there is nothing wrong with identifying as asexual. Discrimination and stigma can have extremely detrimental effects on one’s mental health. Alienation causes people to rethink their own identification and feel as though there might actually be something wrong with them.

Worldwide rates of depression and generalized anxiety disorder continue to rise. Within the past two decades, public support for the LGBTQ community has increased immensely, however, mental health conditions continue to be a major problem within the community. Many people feel as though they are viewed as an outcast and isolated. As a community, we must work toward common support. Schools, communities and parents can make a difference toward building an accepting and welcoming environment to provide a safe place for everyone in the LBGTQ community.

By Carson Shea, Newport Beach, Calif.

Fighting climate change demands political action

I am writing in your response to the April 30 article on the recent trend towards eco-friendly homes. I always find myself conflicted on how to feel about such news. On the one hand, a world in which people look to make environmentally informed decisions on their major purchases is better than an all-else-equal world where they do not. But in the back of my head, I worry that those very decisions allow residents of places like Boulder to feel a little too complacent about having made their contribution to a greener world.

The carbon footprint of a typical American, even one living in a house built partially for ecological sustainability, still far outweighs that of an average person, globally speaking. If we have to wait for worldwide economic solutions that bring everyone to the wealth level of the typical Boulderite, where they feel fiscally able to devote some of their resources to reducing their emissions, then by the time we reach that point, it will be too late.

However, merely knowing how to act against climate change is nontrivial, and often the most readily available solutions are the ones that involve cutting emissions in our own lives. There is no reason we should not seize upon them when we can. My argument is merely that this should be part of a broader plan of action for each of us.

Personally, I try to make an effort to speak out politically in favor of a carbon tax. A carbon tax would add a cost to greenhouse gas-emitting sources of fuel in a minimally governmentally intrusive way. Products and services throughout the economy that produce more emissions in getting to market would see their prices raised commensurately. This in turn would incentivize environmentally responsible purchases, and markets would get to work at making ever-greener products and technologies. The money raised from the tax could be returned to citizens as a dividend on a per capita basis as in the policy proposal put forth by the Citizens Climate Lobby.

This carbon fee and dividend solution strikes me as practical because its reliance on markets, rather than government intrusion, has an appeal to conservatives whom I’ve spoken to about it. But at the same time, it gets all of society on the same page in aligning our purchases with the good of our planet.

By Dan Palken, graduate student at CU, Boulder

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