I never thought I’d say this, but I love my community service, and here’s why:
Like most students I’ve spoken to about the community service requirement, although it is rewarding and it is nice to give back, it is also very time consuming and can get tedious at times. After signing up for the course this semester, I was anxious to just “get it over with.”
I’m not a very “rugged” person, and I’ll be the first to admit that I do not like to get my hands dirty. That being said, when I received the list of places to serve, tutoring seemed like a suitable option. As soon as I saw Hayward Middle school on the list, I emailed the school’s supervisor Carrie Hanna and I was scheduled to serve within a week.
My service at Hayward consisted of tutoring two students who “need me” for thirty minutes, and then moving to the library to work with kids who are some of the smartest at the school. After only my first day, what I thought was going to be an hour of aggravating children who didn’t follow rules and didn’t care about their schoolwork soon turned into the highlight of my day every time I went.
Once the kids began to feel confortable with me, needless to say…they wouldn’t shut up. I could tell that they really just wanted someone to talk to, and it must have been nice to have both an authoritative and a friendly figure there to listen.
Tyler, one of the boys who I can easily say I’ve become the closest with, slowly began to tell me about his weekend activities and his home life. One week, after I asked what he did the previous night; he told me that his group of friends regularly participated in street fights. As he gave me details about these violent brawls that occurred in the middle of the night, I couldn’t help but feel nervous and upset. This is when I realized, I really care about these kids, and I want them to have a better life.
The next day, instead of reading an excerpt from a packet or working on homework, I made Tyler read a lengthy article about street fights in the City of Springfield and how they have ended numerous lives over the years. Although at first Tyler was hesitant to show his gratitude, our session ended with a hug and some sincere apologizes. This helped me see that although I cannot change Tyler’s home life, I can change what I do during my time spent with him. This motivated me to truly push my other students, and the results were astonishing.
Now, after some hard work and long weeks, my “scholarly” students and I eventually published the first ever Hayward School Newspaper, The Big Red Journal. The first issue consisted of two articles, one about bullying and the other about the transition from 7th to 8th grade. These were both things the students said that they cared about, and being able to see them express themselves was something I will never forget.
So, what have I gotten out of my community service experience? I’ve gained friendship, understanding, commitment, and motivation. Unlike before, I now see why Wittenberg came up with the idea of the Community Service experience. My times at Hayward have been moments that I feel proud of, and making a difference has changed my outlook on life in several ways. So go out there, make a difference, give back…and smile while doing it. It’s the least we can do.