|Volunteering: From the Mentors
I have always done a lot of volunteering. It started as a graduation requirement in 7th grade, but now I volunteer almost every weekend! For example, most Saturdays I can be found sorting donated toys for under-privileged kids. Then, I help parents pick out which toys they will give their children for their birthdays. I think that it's really important to volunteer, because you can really see how much your efforts are helping people. I have also held bake sales for Habitat for Humanity, because I wasn't old enough to be building houses. Even if you think you're not old enough, there's always something you can do to help. Use whatever skills you have, because there is definitely someone out there that could use your skills. Can you bake cookies? Do you speak 2 languages? Are you good with kids? You can use any skill that you have to help someone. Volunteering is a very rewarding experience that you shouldn't pass up!
One program I help run with about seven other students at my high school is called You've Got A Friend. This program is a friendship between my private school and our local public elementary school, where students from my school are paired with two elementary school children. We hold events once a month during the year and for each event, we play games and just play together. It makes me feel good because I get to organize and run events, and learn about what makes these little children happy, and see their smiling faces when they get to play with their high school buddies. It also allows the kids to play on weekends with fun things that their normal life might not provide. I think it's important for young people like me to participate in programs like these, because it makes you feel good about yourself for making someone else happy, and gives you the opportunity to make a difference in a younger child's life. Imagine how playing with a certain child one Sunday a month for a year can make him turn away from becoming a gang member and bring him happiness in teaching him about the joys of life!
I started volunteering when I was in the fifth grade, when I was asked to represent the youth in my community. I had to attend community meetings to give my input on a community center that was to be built. I was involved with the building's plans for several months until the meetings were concluded. In sixth grade, my teacher arranged for a volunteering field trip because she wanted to encourage us to help in the community. The first job the class did together was involved with the greater food bank of Philadelphia, sorting donated food or preparing envelopes with important information. Most of the class didn't think they would enjoy the experience but in the end, we all had fun working with each other. So then I think I was hooked on volunteering! In the ninth grade, I began to volunteer at my local library. Since I had an interest in working with children, I was asked to help library visitors with their homework and school assignments. I enjoyed meeting the different people and befriending the daily visitors. My biggest accomplishment was helping one child learn how to read1 Later, I worked at a shelter for displaced women with children and helped at a nursing home on weekends. I liked interacting with the residents and listening to their stories. Most of the time, the residents just wanted someone to listen to them.
Since 6th grade, I've been teaching Sunday School at my church. The kids I work with are kindergartners and so much fun. I've learned how to be more assertive and responsible from my experiences working with them, and I've gotten better with public speaking. (Reading Bible stories to five year olds is a lot different than giving speeches to adults, but you have to start somewhere!) Last year at my old elementary school, I worked with my former teacher in her 3rd grade classroom. I'd help her grade papers, read with kids, work on crafts, and any other odd job she needed done. There was an autistic boy in that class, and seeing how his classmates accepted and helped him amazed me; even kids in high school still make fun of students with disabilities. I think volunteering increases maturity because you're usually in a position where others can observe you and want to set a good example. Also, people who volunteer tend to be mature to begin with since they give up their time for nothing in return...nothing monetary, that is! I think the experiences you take away from volunteering make up for the money you don't get.
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