Philanthropy as fuel

. March 27, 2013.

To say Bryan Aaron is a busy young man would be an understatement — the 18-year-old is co-chair of Ann Arbor Teens for Kids (AATFK), co-chair of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation Youth Council (AAACFYC), a special needs camp counselor and middle school tutor. The Skyline High School student's work helps connect other teens with volunteer opportunities, a job that fits the A2 teen, who’s “fueled by philanthropy,” perfectly. Aaron graciously pressed pause so we could catch up with him for a chat.

What prompted you to give back to the community?
My mom has always been really big into philanthropy and my dad volunteers. Growing up I learned that making a difference is an important part of life. As a young kid, I realized the difference between people who have money and those who don't. There are so many opportunities that become available through enhanced socio-economic status. It makes me feel great to help out those who are less fortunate.

How did you get involved with Ann Arbor Teens for Kids (AATFK) and Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation Youth Council (AAACFYC)?
I moved here in the 6th grade. I was trying to get accustomed to Ann Arbor and getting involved was a great way to meet people. In the 9th grade I met Nick Shannon, the founder of AATFK, and he said, "Welcome to the volunteer world of Ann Arbor. Hop on board!" AATFK connects teens with local non-profits that need help. We have over 90 teens from seven high schools in Ann Arbor that volunteer for over 40 non-profits. I was chosen to be one of 25 high school students after an interview process for the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation. We get to allocate $75K in funds to local non-profits. It's pretty awesome having a say in where the money will go.

Do you have a favorite "this is why I do it" moment?
I would have to say it was last summer as a camp counselor for kids with special needs. There was so much laughter and happiness. Like I said, that is my "fuel" and by the way, it is a renewable energy source!

What do you do to relax?
Well, actually, volunteering is 50% meeting people and 50% helping others. I really love the social [aspects] and the building relationships part of it. I also like to hang with friends, especially at the lake.

Any big plans for the future?
In the immediate future, the upcoming summer is pretty much set  in stone. There are two sessions of camp where I will be assigned one camper with special needs. After I graduate, I am thinking about attending U of M. I am leaning toward public policy or perhaps international studies. I'm not sure what volunteer opportunities or clubs are available at the university level but I will definitely be part of them. I am a Michigan native. I could however be tempted to move to California one day but for now duty calls. I have to keep "refueling."

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