MCAA students gain by giving
The halls are bustling with students as they sprint to their next class. It is the second week of school, and the summer vacation is already forgotten. New students find friends and older students reacquaint themselves with their peers.
Assignments are given and everyone slowly returns to the typical routine. This might include drama performances, dance recitals, music concerts or, in many cases, volunteer work. Many students at the Marysville Charter Academy for the Arts volunteer often in assorted settings, such as churches and hospitals. Many of these same students make time in spite of performances, large projects and busy schedules to help out just because they choose to.
MCAA doesn't require community service in order to graduate, though it is highly recommended to complete several hours. John Pimentel, the school's academic adviser and former principal, said, "There is more of an emphasis on volunteerism and the importance of community service nowadays than there were when I was a high school student."
He explained that volunteer work is a great incentive for colleges to accept a student, and noted the self-confidence and satisfaction that students get when they help someone in need. Students must have initiative to go out and volunteer, and it is not something they are forced into, like a high school education, which creates a different attitude.
Lamira Herrera, a senior at MCAA, volunteers at Rideout Memorial Hospital in Marysville. She said that when she first started, she "was really looking forward to helping people." Inspired mainly by her mother, Lamira feels that volunteer work isn't only about helping people and being able to put a number of hours on her college applications, but also about "getting the know-how." With her heart set on working in the medical field, Lamira wants to understand as best she can what will be expected of her in a hospital setting.
Ruth Atkins, an English, Latin and French teacher at MCAA, spoke of her involvement in volunteering at a high school age. Her mother had forced her to tutor for a reading class and through this, she began to understand how differently students learn. "It widens you," she said, and "gives you a window into other people's lives."
Katie Earley is an eighth-grader at MCAA who volunteers at Travis Air Force Base. She said, "Even if you're just serving someone a cup of coffee, you're really making their day." Also inspired by her mother, Katie decided to come along to help her mom volunteer at the base. She says that she really wants to continue to volunteer and help people in need. "Wherever you can help out, help out."
In 2003, 63.8 million people volunteered across America, and more than one-fourth of them were teenagers. Teen volunteers not only make a difference in their communities, but they also make a difference in themselves. These young men and women are gaining experience, self-confidence and an understanding of the world around them that they could not get in a school setting.
T.J. Scott is a senior at the Marysville Charter Academy for the Arts. Her column appears every sixth week in Education.