By Rachel Booth
My high school would not let you graduate unless you had 100 hours of documented community service hours. While many of my classmates groaned at this experience, I embraced it and let volunteering shape my summers and, ultimately, my perspective on the world. I gladly graduated with well over 100 hours.
I spent two summers as a classroom assistant at the Holy Family Day Home, a preschool in the Mission District of San Francisco that serves a number of low-income and homeless families. I’ve always liked spending time with kids, playing the ‘big sister’ role I missed out on as the youngest in my family. Working at the preschool taught me how important it is to support and nurture children at a young age, by simply teaching them table manners during lunchtime or how to make amends with a friend on the playground. During nap time one day, a little boy asked me about my mommy and told me his was in jail because she was an alcoholic. Hearing those words out of a five year-old’s mouth was both heartbreaking and humbling.
Following my time at the preschool, I worked at the National Ability Center in Park City, Utah, with a group of campers on the autism spectrum. The kids at the NAC were some of the hardest working kids I’ve ever met. They were always excited for some new adventure, whether it was tubing or canoeing, and strived to be the fastest bikers and highest climbers despite their disabilities.
I learned that the kids at the Holy Family Day Home and the National Ability Center were special because, with the creativity and hopefulness that comes with youth, they refuse to be defined by their conditions and disabilities. I found them inspiring, and I know I will always find a way to make time in my life for volunteering because, for me, working with kids has been so rewarding that it doesn’t seem like work at all. Those kids might not remember me – that volunteer that one summer- but I will always remember them, and I hope I had some positive influence on their lives and future selves.