One of the best things about the St. Pete Timebank is that you can find people from all ages coming out to make the community better.
The Youth Timebank, or YTB, is a place for kids and teenagers to get involved, share their knowledge and hopefully instill a sense of volunteerism and service into their lives.
We met 15-year-old Aiymere Sanchez, who is involved with the YTB. He seemed kind of nervous and shy, but what 15-year-old isn’t when a camera is in his face and he’s getting asked a bunch of questions?
“(I) heard about it through my mom. She took me to one of the meetings,” Aiymere said. “I got noticed because I was like, one of the youngest in the entire room. And like, somehow it got to a point where they were like, OK, we can integrate like, the youth into being a part of the time bank.”
Aiymere’s mother, Whitney Sanchez, stood behind him as he spoke, and could not look any more proud of her son.
“Certain people need certain role models, like, that aren’t adults and who aren’t famous,” Sanchez said. “They (young people) need somebody to look at and be like, ‘Oh, he’s doing this. I can do this too.’”
Whitney Sanchez added, “Me and his father have instilled a lot of morals and values in him, and are allowing him to be his own individual. And we’re seeing, you know, what we’ve instilled in him, and it’s like, so sweet.”
When kids become older than 13, they can start with the YTB. These young time-bankers can earn “Karma Kredits” by doing good deeds for others. Once they collect enough Karma Kredits, they can turn them in for things like gift cards.
We also met Jayda A. Parkes-Quarrie, another teen who does community service with the time bank. She was super friendly and inviting when we met her working behind a sewing machine, making masks.
“Any type of community service that you do, you would get time credit for that,” Jayda said. “I’ve been making masks for the homeless. That’s how it all started.”
Although she had never sewed before, she’s now mastered a new skill by giving back to others.
“I’ve never sewn before. So it was really new to me. And I had a lot of fun learning,” Jayda said.
You don’t even need a special skill to help out with the YTB.
Sheena Qualles-de Freece, who is the coordinator of the YTB Timebank, explained that something as simple as sorting greeting cards is a help to the community.
“They’re so innovative,” Freece said. “They have great ideas, and they’re change-makers for tomorrow. And that’s why our slogan is ‘our youth changing tomorrow’s world today.’”
We even met a kid who helps folks who aren’t up to date on technology, and he fixes things on their phone. From closing an app to figuring out how to use Facebook, there are so many things that the youth can teach people who are older than them.
Freece has much respect and optimism for the future because of the young people she has the pleasure of working with.
“Getting involved with the youth keeps me alive, and just listening to their ideas -- we just kind of guide them, not telling them what do,” Freece said. “I like just guiding them.”
It’s exciting to see people in their community come together and help each other out in any way possible, but when you realize that these skills are being taught to teens at such a young age, it makes you more optimistic for the future.
If they know how to give back at such a young age, what will they be capable of when they hit their 20s?
That’s exciting to think about.