The first agency I volunteered to work for is a program called Summer Quest. Summer Quest is designed to help students that are in the sixth through twelfth grade experience a «positive summer experience» What this actually means is that it provides students an opportunity to do fun and exciting things, in a positive atmosphere. Instead of the students sitting at home alone the entire summer, they have a place where they can hang out and enjoy themselves. This is a great program that offers students an alternative to getting into trouble and being alone during the Summer. Summer Quest is also setup in a way that all the activities are relatively inexpensive.
This is where I come in. I was in charge of putting together a schedule of activities for each week. The schedule included an activity for Monday from 8:00 a. m. to 5:00 p. m., Thursday from 4:00 p. m. to 11:00 p. m., and Friday from 8:00 a. m. to 5:00 p. m. This was a very difficult assignment. I had to plan fun events, but also make them very inexpensive. This was an interesting task that allowed me for the first time to use many of the skills I had learned in my Organizational Communication classes. I had to negotiate prices for admission, and figure out transportation and food cost. It also taught me a lot about planning and time organization. I had to plan months in advance, and fill in every second of the day with activities to keep the students busy. Now I know that in the future when I am in the real world, I can plan big events and pull them off successfully because of this experience.
The second agency that I worked for was Parkway Preschool. This agency has two types of programs. They call the first program «Moms Day Out.» This program allows parents who cannot afford, or do not have the resources of proper child care, a chance to drop their kids off three times a week from 8:30 a. m. to 1:00 p. m. The second program is a regular preschool program running from Monday to Friday. I had the opportunity to work with both programs during my volunteer work.
During my day at the program I would sit in with different classes and help the teacher teach. I would read the children stories, sing songs, and play games. I had too often think of games that would teach a lesson, or come up with a creative way to learn things like the alphabet. If a year ago someone had told me that I would be working with preschoolers I would have called them a liar, but the fact is I loved it. The time I shared with the children was a great joy. While at first I dreaded knowing I had to go to the preschool, as the semester went on, I looked forward to the time I could be there with the kids. I can truly say that I not only taught them, but they taught me.
The lesson I learned does not deal with what I thought I would learn, but was the greatest lesson of all. It deals with the male role model in children's life. I noticed as I worked at the preschool that there was several boys who, from the time I walked into the building to the time I left, would stay clutched to my side. Everywhere I would go, they would follow. They would always give me a hug and want me to play with them. During lesson time they would all flock around me, getting as close as they could. On the play ground they would gather around and want me to throw the ball to them, play chase, or push them on the swing. The first day it began to happen I thought they were only doing it because I was new, and that it would wear of in a couple of days, but to my surprise it did not. In fact, they began to become more zealous about my time at the preschool, and would ask the teachers every day, «Is Mr. Jamie coming today.»
I soon began to wonder why all these male students were so excited about me coming to the school. When I asked another teacher about it she reveled something to me that broke my heart, and for the first time I began to realize why these young boys clung to me so much. While all the kids were eating their snacks, she pointed to each boy that had became attached to me and began to tell their stories. She shared with me about each boy's situation. It so happened that the boys that would stay close to me were the ones without a father or male role model in the home. They were mostly from female-headed households. I began to realize that I was providing these students with a male role model that would spend time with them.
I remembered how my own Dad was always there for me, to stand next to, play ball with, or just to talk to. These children had never had anyone like that in their lives, there was a void, and I was being used to fill that void. When I realized this, I looked at the time I had spent with them and how much it meant. From that point on I have set in my heart always to spend sometime with children that have no positive male role models in their life and try to help them. I can either watch a movie for two hours a week and not gain a thing, or spend those same two hours with a child, and it will mean more than I will ever really know.
In conclusion, I found that there where two major areas in my life that were greatly influenced, and positively affected by being a part of Service Learning. The first area relates to commitment. When I first signed up for Service Learning, I was not very thrilled about doing so much volunteer work. I felt that I had too much to do, and to little time to do it in. I thought that there would be no way I could volunteer for seventy-five hours, work, and go to school full time, but I decided that I would try it. I felt that if the volunteer work did not fit into my schedule, or if I did not have a enough time for it, I would just drop the class. I had no level of commitment at all to the volunteer work in the very beginning, especially work that dealt with little kids, but my friends told me I would enjoy it, so I went for it. The first day however fueled the desire to give up even more. The first day all I did was fill out paper work, talk to the director, and prepare snacks. This all changed on my second visit. It was then that I was allowed to go into a class for the first time. I saw the smiling faces of twenty-five adorable looking three and four year olds. The first time I walked into the room I felt completely loved. It was a wonderful and exciting day. The drudging volunteer work became more to me like a magnificent opportunity. The hardest part of the work was the time I had to leave. The kids would all come up and give me hugs and ask when I was going to come back. Commitment then became part of the job. When I committed to those children that I would be there on a certain day, I was there. I learned that once you agree to something, stick it out. In the very beginning doing it may seem useless or hard, but stick with it, in the end you may learn to love it.
The second area involved deals with selfishness. At first, like most of the world, I was only concerned about myself. I wanted to do only what James wanted to do. Through volunteer work I began to see that the true joy in life was not pleasing me, but in pleasing others. When I saw the looks on the children's faces as I played with them, or when I would show the Summer Quest kids the Summer schedule, a joy filled my life that I never received by trying to please myself.
If all of humankind would just give up a little time a day and help another human what a wonderful world this would be, and what a treasure of happiness in the joy of helping others they would find.
I hope every student has the opportunity to take this course. For me it was a very enlightening one and I feel that it would be just as beneficial to other students. Thank you for allowing me to have this opportunity