20-year-olds creating new opportunities: 'It's all about taking the initiative'

April 25, 1993|By Daniel M. Amdur

Action Coalition is making a difference

Last summer, the watchword in the presidential election was "change." David Canter and Tripp Burgunder, both 24 years old, wanted to be a part of that change, but they grew frustrated at how few opportunities there were for young people to get involved in the community.

So they decided to do something about it.

The University of Baltimore Law School students, along with some of their friends, formed the Young Persons' Action Coalition and started voter registration and education drives on campus.

"We wanted to get involved. We wanted to do things," said Mr. Canter. "But there weren't a lot of outlets to participate. Basically, we wanted to make a difference."

With a results-oriented approach, the 40-member group is looking to make changes on a community level wherever it can. (( The voting drives were just the beginning.

Recycling was next. Before YPAC came along, the law school campus had had no recycling program. The group designed a plan to recycle paper, and collected and transported all the materials themselves to a recycling facility.

Responding to YPAC's plan, the university picked up the program and has now hired a full-time employee to manage recycling for the entire campus.

"It's all about taking the initiative," said Mr. Canter. "Don't look to others if you see a problem. Fix it yourself.

"No matter how small, we just try to pick achievable projects and practice success."

For both Mr. Canter and Mr. Burgunder, it was concern for the future and skepticism about the older generation that prompted them to start YPAC.

"They've left us with a somewhat disappointing legacy," admitted Mr. Canter, pointing to government gridlock, the growing deficit and an increasing environmental crisis as problems his generation will have to face in the future.

"I think there needs to be some fresh ideas in government," agreed Mr. Burgunder. "I think there's a place for people our age to have a profound impact on government and to solve problems." Janine Morris and Robert Ukkelberg lead different lives, but they have two things in common -- they are both part of the twentysomething generation, and they both spend their lunch hour delivering meals to homebound AIDS patients.

Ms. Morris, 22, and Mr. Ukkelberg, 29, are part of a group of 22 volunteers who deliver food for Moveable Feast, an organization providing dinner five days a week for 104 people with AIDS who cannot get out on their own.

For Ms. Morris, who began delivering meals two months ago, this was the first time she had come in contact with someone suffering with acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

"It was kind of an eye-opener when I first walked in," she said. "It's kind of a shock to see people in their 30s this sick."

Ms. Morris delivers meals two days a week to people in varying degrees of illness, but she said all of them are always happy to see her.

"The people that I've met are really appreciative," she said. "I'm like a familiar face for them."

Mr. Ukkelberg, who delivers four days a week, said he wasn't sure what to expect when he first volunteered four months ago, but the experience has changed the way he sees people.

"It's not as scary as I thought. I'm growing more open to people no matter what disease they have," he said.

"It turned out to be something both rewarding and convenient at the same time. Instead of doing the same old thing of working for myself," he added, "I can do something for somebody else."

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