This week, I attended Mayor Buddy Dyer’s annual Volunteer and National Service Appreciation Reception in Orlando. The event celebrated local organizations and individuals committed to volunteerism and national service, recognizing them and acknowledging that they make Florida a better, brighter place to live.

As the lead agency for volunteerism and national service in the state, Volunteer Florida administers AmeriCorps programs in Orlando, including Heart of Florida United Way, City Year Orlando and the city itself. These AmeriCorps members mentor students and provide crucial one-on-one attention, ensuring they have an opportunity to receive a quality education and ultimately succeed in life.

Those with Heart of Florida United Way work at Evans High School and Oak Ridge High School. They tutor more than 300 at-risk students, helping them graduate on time, while encouraging them to attend college. They even research and review financial aid options.

City Year Orlando AmeriCorps members dedicate their time at local middle schools, as well as high schools. They improve 585 students’ language arts and math capabilities, and they also recruit volunteers from the community to participate in physical service projects to benefit the schools.

The city involves them in an academic advocacy and counseling program, targeting juniors and seniors at high schools in Orlando’s five lowest income neighborhoods. As a result, they have helped more than 1,000 students develop college or career plans.

These AmeriCorps members – and all of the honorees at the event who invest in the future of Orlando and the state – embody the values of Volunteer Florida. They promote volunteerism and national service with purposeful collaboration and thoughtful leadership, while inspiring all Floridians to do their part and make a difference.

I thought about that as Mayor Dyer read the proclamation declaring April 2018 as Volunteer Appreciation Month. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude and pride.