Kaylen Larson considers herself a happy person, but that’s not the only reason she was chosen to serve on a United Nations happiness panel in New York City.The United Nations declared March 20 the International Day of Happiness, and a group of gleeful leaders from around the world are joining together for a panel discussion.Larson is the only youth representative on the panel, and also the only American.The event is called “Happiness Happening: Impact Communities Globally,” and is organized by non governmental organizations.
Larson, a junior political science major at South Dakota State University, will give a five-minute presentation about how community service contributes to youth happiness. “Happiness is a state of mind, and it can be achieved through helping others,” said Larson. “It’s human nature to want to help others, and when youth get involved with community service, they’re more likely to carry that service into their adult lives.”She is an intern for the FIA Foundation, a United Kingdom registered charity supporting international programming promoting road safety, the environment and sustainable mobility, as well as funding motor sport safety research. Larson was nominated to serve on the panel by her boss Bella Dinh-Zarr, who works as director of road safety for the FIA Foundation in Washington, D.C., and is also the North American director of Makes Roads Safe.
Through her internship, Larson campaigns for youth health and safety issues, mainly focusing on the global transportation. Some of Larson's duties include working toward the United Nation's Decade of Action for Road Safety goals, and advocating to federal officials about road safety issues.
She also volunteers as a peer mentor on board of directors for National Organizations for Youth Safety based out of Washington, D.C.
Community service is something Larson has been involved with her whole life. She started logging community service hours at East Grand Forks Senior High School in Minnesota. As a junior, Larson organized a school assembly on distracted driving and earned grant money to organize an elementary physical fitness fair, led by high school students.
She served as the national Family, Career and Community Leaders of America president from 2011 to 2012. Following that, she served as a member of the national board of directors and as a volunteer judge for high school competitive event presentations at Minnesota and Iowa FCCLA conferences.
“By the time I entered my senior year, I had logged more than 5,000 community service hours,” said Larson, who received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award. “But I decided to stop logging hours. I realized that just doing the service work for my own happiness was enough, and I no longer needed that outward recognition.”
At SDSU, she stays involved on campus by serving as marketing chair for Chi Omega sorority, assistant grand pooba for marketing on the Hobo Day committee, and photographer for the Collegian. “We do a lot of community service and volunteer work with our Xi Theta Chapter of Chi Omega,” said Larson. “All of our fundraising proceeds go toward the Make a Wish Foundation. We’ve put on ‘Skating for Wishes’ events, and participate in ‘Relay for Life’ each year.”Larson expects to graduate from State in May 2015. After college, she wants to work in public health, writing and promoting social campaigns for non governmental organizations. “Happiness is something everyone can achieve,” said Larson. “And helping and giving back locally is a step in the right direction.”