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Making a Difference: Teens helping communities through summer internship

Community Foundation for the Alleghenies youth philanthropy interns are helping with community projects around Cambria County. (WJAC)

CAMBRIA COUNTY, Pa. - Nearly a dozen teens in our area are spending their summer getting their hands dirty to learn about their communities and to improve them at the same time.

In this week's making a difference, we look at how an internship for local high school graduates is bringing real change in just 8 weeks.

Putting on gloves and getting to work. Ten high school graduates and college students from Bedford, Cambria, Somerset and Indiana counties are doing their part in making their communities better.

They're paid interns for the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies youth philanthropy internship but it doesn't feel like a job to them.

“You're doing something new every day," said Ethan Wingard, who is a senior youth philanthropy intern. This is his second year doing the internship. “It’s very helpful that we're doing an internship where we can develop professionally and give back to a community we love and it’s the best of both worlds."

They've been doing community service all week around Cambria County, like in Hastings to clean up a wooded area where the nonprofit Small Town Hope is building a treehouse for children and their families. The space will provide health and wellness programs and fun activities.

The interns cleared brush, picked up glass that was left behind and painted signs to help spread the word about the project.

“This is really nice to have extra hands, we appreciate it so much. And I’m so proud of them for taking a step so early in their lives to want to help people around them. This is so special to us, it means a lot,” said Beth Paronish who is a board member for Small Town Hope.

Over 8 weeks, the interns are using their skills to find creative solutions for areas that need help and then they will award $25,000 grants to two agencies.

"I think we live in such a great region and I don't think there's enough of a positive conversation around Johnstown and our area,” said Adeline Mishler who is also a senior youth philanthropy intern. "This internship gives opportunity for kids and youth to be a part of their community and change it and shape it to what they want it to be... we all want to change the community for the better."

They also helped with several other projects this week like in Johnstown. They helped improve the train station and did some weeding along trails.

“I’ve lived here my entire life and I’ve never known half of these things happening. It makes me realize ‘hey, maybe I just want to come back and spend the rest of my life in Johnstown.’ There’s so much going on here. If everyone could see and be positive about their area, everyone would want to stay and make it so much better,” Mishler said.

They're clearing the way for positive change for others and building successful futures for themselves.

“I think it’s cool seeing 17, 18 year olds and saying lets treat them like professionals and see where they can go. And I think when go through program and do great things they can trace it back to here,” Wingard said.

There will be a ribbon cutting for the tree house in Hastings in the Fall. To learn more about that project, you can go to the organization's website.

If you are with an agency or some sort of community initiative, you can apply for the grants by August 2nd.

The two categories are focusing on the arts and combating disconnection that sometimes happens in our area.

The internship ends August 10th.

If you're interested in doing this internship next year, you can find information here.

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