Teen inspires young people through mentorship and volunteer projects in North Carolina community

Isabella Daniel, right, shows off a project from the recycled art program she started for Love A Sea Turtle./Courtesy Isabella Daniel

Meet Isabella Daniel, winner of the Daily Point of Light Award. Read her story and nominate an exceptional volunteer or family as a point of light.

The first time Isabella Daniel attended a love a sea turtle As a volunteer, she was struck by seeing other young people leading the organization’s programs and events. The non-profit organization, which focuses on promoting environmental sustainability, has a particular focus on developing youth leadership by having young people lead their own projects and programs. Wanting to develop her leadership skills while helping her community in Greenville, North Carolina, Isabella began her journey of service three years ago by signing up as a volunteer.

Today, the 18-year-old volunteers eight to 12 hours each week for Love A Sea Turtle, helping with projects ranging from working in community gardens to donating bicycles to people in need. Isabella also serves as a mentor for the organization’s summer educational program. In addition, she volunteers with US Corps and as North Carolina LeaderBody representing.

Describe your role as a volunteer with Love A Sea Turtle.

Love A Sea Turtle is a non-profit organization that focuses on youth empowerment and encourages environmental issues. I am both a mentor and a volunteer. For mentoring, during the summers I go to camps and mentor kids in grades three through five, and help them with STEM-related activities. I would like to continue their studies during the summer instead of just having fun. It’s also one of the reasons I love mentoring, seeing the development of these kids and seeing how much they’ve grown from the day we started to the end of the program. I volunteer weekly doing garden days, fixing bikes, donating bikes to people in need in our community, as well as doing STEM stuff with the kids.

Head of a girl with long dark hair and glasses.
Isabella Daniel is both a volunteer and a mentor for the nonprofit Love A Sea Turtle./Courtesy of Isabella Daniel

What drew you to the mission of Love A Sea Turtle?

Love A Sea Turtle’s goal is to engage young people, as well as adults, but specifically for young people to take action wherever they can and impact our world, whether local or global. It could impact and make a difference in people’s lives within their community, and then they can expand it to state level, national level, and even global level. All of the young people in our organization took a lot of time to get involved with different organizations, such as the National Youth Council, Earth Echo, and I was a state representative for LeaderCorps. My mentorship and a lot of that pro bono work helped me get to where I am right now, so I was really happy about that. One of the goals of Love A Sea Turtle is to start young to make an impact.

Can you explain your recycled art initiative?

Recycled Art is an initiative I started in 2019, where I would ask some of my Love A Sea Turtle members to help me collect recycled materials from different schools and organizations. We stayed after school to collect them, then we washed and disinfected them. My debut, you could say, was a second-hand art festival, which had all the water bottle [art projects] We were doing. There was a group of parents and children who came to our stand. We would help them do a spiral water bottle recycling project and tell them why you should recycle – because plastics don’t break down really quickly so it’s best to recycle them and put them to use different.

What aspect of Love A Sea Turtle was particularly meaningful to you?

When I started Love A Sea Turtle, everyone was very welcoming. It was more like a family, as soon as I started. There was no discrimination or anything. It was great fun and interesting to see people from different backgrounds come together to achieve a goal, and that was to make our community better, whether it was through education, the environment, or safety.

The person helps to put a bicycle helmet on a small child.
Sabella Daniel, left, helps outfit a child with a bike helmet during a Love A Sea Turtle bike donation./Courtesy Isabella Daniel

Can you describe your work as an AmeriCorps and LeaderCorps volunteer?

For AmeriCorps, we go to different schools and tutor them for extracurricular activities. We go there and teach them things that relate to their courses, and we make sure they do well and get A’s. [For LeaderCorps], we meet at least once a month with people from all over North Carolina and discuss issues we are having with our community, such as hunger or environmental issues. We find solutions during the meeting and collaborate on ideas. We execute this plan during the week, take a picture of it and share it on social media so people can see that we planned this, did it and had an impact.

What has been the most rewarding part of your job?

What I find most rewarding about service or volunteering is the difference and impact you can make on people’s lives, whether small or life changing. At the end of the actions you do, you see people smiling. It’s one of the most rewarding things you’ve had that impact, whether it’s giving bikes to little kids or baking 200 pies for the homeless and celebrating their Thanksgiving with them.

What do you want people to learn from your story?

Whether you want to start now or later, volunteering a few hours a week will help you see different perspectives on life. This can change its value. It will definitely open up more relationships for you by meeting different people.

Want to make a difference in your community like Isabella? Find local volunteer opportunities.

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