Young Men’s Service League (YMSL) is a national organization that teams mothers and their high school-age sons in community service. It is designed as a four-year program emphasizing philanthropy, education and leadership. YMSL’s mission is to serve those in need in the local community, while fostering important shared experiences between mother and son, strengthening their relationship in the process.
After hearing about this great program, Sherri Esarte, now the Ozark Chapter President, immediately began looking into how to bring the organization to Arkansas. Within a few months, Arkansas’ first chapter of the Young Men’s Service League (YMSL Ozark) was up and running. Its members, consisting of 41 moms and 46 high school freshmen and sophomores, now serve 19 different philanthropies in Northwest Arkansas. Just two months after its inaugural meeting, the members of YMSL Ozark have already completed 415 hours of community service.
When our moms first told us about this organization, of course we were skeptical. But, since then, we have had several volunteer opportunities that have made us realize how rewarding service can be. We have truly enjoyed the opportunity to interact with others, serve our local community and make the people that we serve happy. For example, at Jamestown Nursing and Rehab, we both played bingo with elderly residents for two hours. It was a truly rewarding experience to see how happy our presence made these ladies, and has encouraged us to keep volunteering. Together, we have served 17 hours and look forward to completing our remaining 23.
Members of YMSL are required to complete 20 hours of service each year; 10 of which must be served as a mother-son team. According to Pam Rosener, the co-founder of YMSL, “The mother-son relationship is at the heart of YMSL, and what sets it apart from other service organizations. We are so pleased that our unique combination of mothers, sons, and service has taken root in Arkansas, and, as is so often the case, expect YMSL Ozark to spawn more chapters in Northwest Arkansas as word spreads about this win-win approach to philanthropy and parenting.”
In addition to their service hours, the young men are required to attend monthly meetings, where they develop leadership skills and learn about a variety of life skills. Members of the community are invited as guest speakers to impart valuable life lessons to the boys about topics including practical life skills, civic responsibility, social skills and life choices.
Each young man holds a specific position within the organization, ranging from President to Committee Member. They learn how to fulfill the duties of their role, as well as how to conduct their own formal business meetings. Jack Burgess was so thrilled to hear that he’d been chosen as the YMSL Sophomore Class President that he immediately changed both his Instagram bio and his fantasy football team name to reflect his new status! YMSL provides a safe environment for boys to explore a variety of leadership roles which will better prepare them as they progress through high school and beyond.
The YMSL organization has widespread appeal to mothers of teenage sons who find it increasingly difficult to spend quality time with their boys due to the hectic schedules in today’s society. Caroline May, who has a freshman in YMSL, said that one of the most valuable things she finds about the group is “the opportunity to do service projects with my son, because he is in a lot of other activities and I feel this organization has brought us together.”
Kim Moss and her son volunteered at Miracle League, an organization in Springdale, where mentally and physically disabled children and adults have the chance to play, learn, and love the sport of baseball, as well as experience the camaraderie that comes with being part of a team. “Miracle League was really powerful for me,” said Kim. As a librarian at Creekside Elementary School, she had taught some of the children participating and said, “It was really fun seeing them interact with our boys and have a great time.” Kristie Sommer, YMSL Ozark’s Website and Communications VP, said, “It is so important for our young men to understand that there are many people out there with a whole host of struggles and challenges. These experiences will hopefully open their eyes and their hearts to those around them in need.”
Young Men’s Service League is not only a valuable organization for the community of Northwest Arkansas, but also for the development of its members as people. Julie Helm, who has a freshman in YMSL, said, “I think this is a great organization. You meet others and feel like you’re making an impact, while bonding with your son.”
All in all, we encourage moms and young men like ourselves to partake in this organization. If you are looking for ways to serve your community but just aren’t carving out the time, YMSL provides structure, opportunity and accountability. During the first 10 weeks, we can already tell it has better prepared us for further education and our future prospects.
YMSL will begin their membership drive for incoming freshmen (for the 2018-19 calendar year), beginning in January through March of 2018.
by: Nick Woodhouse – YMSL Ozark Sophomore Vice President and Matthew Esarte – YMSL Ozark Sophomore VP of Communications