Local Leader Changes Lives One “Ah-Ha” Moment At A Time
As a high school freshman, Bobby Persinger felt he found his place in this world when he began volunteering with the Y.E.S. (Youth Engaged in Service) Club. It was while he was looking at service brochures at the YES Club, he identified the disease that had tormented his mother throughout his childhood. The reality of his home life was spelled out in words directly in front of him; his mother was bipolar.
Bobby describes this as an “Ah-Ha” moment. Moments that might seem inconsequential to some, ended up leading him to where he is today. He always felt the desire to do good things, and in his mind he thought, “do something bigger than you.” So he did.
Early in his career, Bobby focused on helping people during the hardest times of their lives. He answered the phone at the 2-1-1/Crisis Hotline and Information Center, and provided assistance to families through Job and Family Services. Having “been there”, gave him the ability to connect with the people he served. During this time, he managed to build a career and dedicate his education to helping those in need.
Ultimately, the environment of working with people who were constantly struggling became exhausting. It was then that he had another “Ah-Ha” moment .As a result, Bobby’s life took an unexpected turn.
It all started when Bobby volunteered for a weekend at a Youth to Youth Camp. Camp was positive, uplifting and full of joy and love. A weekend at camp led to a week of camp, and later a full time job as the Youth Coordinator.
In 2011, as the Prevention Director at Pathways of Central Ohio, Bobby had a vision for a group focused on youth engagement. He reached out to his community contacts, secured funding and created The Youth Leadership Council (YLC) of Licking County.
The YLC is an award-winning youth-led prevention project comprised of high school students who collectively work to help make Licking County a happy, healthy, safe and drug free place to live, work and go to school. Through prevention education, leadership development, civic engagement and community service; the YLC strives to educate and inform parents, professionals and their peers on the dangers of substance use/abuse and violence.
For former YLC President Blake Butler, a Navy ROTC Cadet at Virginia Tech, Bobby was a positive influence in his life. “Bobby was always supportive. He made time for you, and you could talk to him about anything.” He adds, “It (the YLC) was our path, and our journey, but Bobby guided us.”
Blake admits the YLC started out to be a resume builder for college, but after he attended the first two training sessions, he realized it was so much more. “The skills I learned though YLC will guide me throughout my career in the Navy,” said Blake.
Four years later, the YLC has grown from 19 members, to 57 for the current cycle. A total of 108 high school students have passed through the YLC and they have dedicated more than 10,000 hours to community engagement.
Bobby Persinger is helping to change the world, one “Ah-Ha” at a time.