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These Children Have Dreams

28 Nov

I’ve been working at the LaMoyne for a few months now, and I finally was able to get inside the head of one of the students. It wasn’t in the way I thought I would. 

He got angry on the playground and stormed off to one of his “Calm Down” spots. He has seven. One is a secret, but he told me where it is, and I’ll keep it to myself so I can honor my promise. Either way, I brought him out of his angry phase by just asking one question. I really had no clue what to say to this boy, because he seemed too mature for simple, silly questions. So I asked: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I got quite an answer. 

“I don’t know what I want to be, but I know where I want to go!” His whole face lit up when I asked where. I had expected the names of states and cities in the U. S. Even I haven’t visited half of them. 

“Indonesia. No, Germany. England! China! Oh, and I wanna be able to speak all the languages, too! I want to go everywhere!”

We talked more about what he wanted to do when he got there, it involved touring and filming and studying and eating the exotic foods. He knew a lot about these countries. He could go on and on and on and on about them!

I also ended up telling him about my impending trip to London, and he begged to see pictures when I get back. I plan on keeping that promise, and I hope his dream will keep pushing him to do better. If you can relate what he is learning to another country, or that because he wants to travel, he needs to learn this and do well, he’ll work hard and be really proud of his work! 

Another wants to coach or play professional football, another wants to coach basketball. Some just want straight-A’s or to win their next game. 

Either way, its great to see kids dreaming big and small! 



My Girls at LeMoyne

28 Nov

Although I do not volunteer at LeMoyne as much as I would like to (scheduling conflicts have interfered this semester, but my winter will be filled with LeMoyne!), I have developed close bonds with a few children at the LeMoyne center.

“My girls” as I call them are all around the age level of 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. We talk about life, they tell me about the boys they have crushes on or the boys that they think are frustrating, we sing songs, dance, laugh, and at any opportune moment I find, I try and slip in questions or motivators about their future and their goals in life. “My girls” are very receptive to this; one told me I am “like a teacher but a friend, too”. These young girls have no idea how much I care about them, and how much I worry about them at the same time.

They’re smart girls, good girls, strong girls: too strong for their age, but that’s what they have had to become in the environment into which they were born. These girls are much more mature and wise than their short 9, 10, and 11 years. Although I see that they struggle, that their lives have daily hardships, I rarely hear them complain (other than the usual young girl complaints about boys and not-so-fun classes in school). These girls bring a smile to my face every time I see them, and I hope I do the same for them.

I’ve written before about how I go into a volunteer program expecting to be a role model to the children, and it sometimes is reverse; they end up being an inspiration to me and someone I even look up to. These girls put life into perspective for me every time I see them. They make me happy and they ground me; they show me that just because people are born into bad families or bad areas, it does not mean they are bad people (I did not ever assume that or generalize that, but these girls spread that message to others).

I care for all of the kids at the LeMoyne, even the ones I have to discipline the most frequently! I worry my presence in their lives will not make a difference, but then I remember “my girls” positive attitudes. Although I may only be in their lives for a short time, I think I will help in their journey. I think all volunteers make a difference, even if someone comes one day or every day. Just the fact that young adults that can be looked up to come out of their free time to play with them, tutor them, cook for them, and support them makes a difference.

No matter how big or small the difference our presence in their lives and theirs in ours are, it’s still a difference. It still means something. And that is why I still go back even after a really hard or tough day of volunteering.

All of us fellows and any volunteer continue their volunteer work because they know, maybe on this day, or the next, or even the next, we’ll make even more of a difference, big or small.




Thanksgiving Dinner!

28 Nov

On Tuesday November 22, the wonderful women in the kitchen cooked the children a full Thanksgiving dinner. This was a very special and unique snack, because all of the children ate together at the same time as one whole family. The women even decorated the table for the holiday complete with cornucopias and pumpkins! Finally,  they completed their meal with homemade desserts and everything! The women worked very hard to make sure this was a success and I’m sure they were not the least bit disappointed!!

I think this really made the holiday special, especially for those kids that may not have gotten a Thanksgiving meal on the upcoming actual Thanksgiving day. On my drive home, I could not help, but think how thankful I am to know these children, the other committed volunteers, and Megs. This program would not be the same, let alone run, without any of these.


The Classroom at the LeMoyne

28 Nov

The LeMoyne Center received a makeover throughout this past summer. It has a brand new Head Start and a classroom  attached to the LeMoyne Center. Although we do not have access to the Head Start, we are very grateful for the classroom we use all day, every day! As you can see, we have decorated it to resemble a school’s classroom. We have a birthday wall, where we always hang the names of students with a birthday in that month!

In addition, we have a Look Who’s in the News Wall, where we recognize students’ work. We also have a huge white board to use! This is where we announce the special and fun day. We have quite the time schedule going to make sure both age groups have a chance to use our special room each day. This would not be possible without all of our fantastic volunteers!


Role Models

17 Nov

Being a volunteer means more than just showing up and going through the motions. It means actively being involved and taking steps to show the kids what a good leader and role model looks like. They will respond to how you portray yourself and for the most part be like mini you’s so it absolutely matters how well you work to help these kids. This is why I volunteer: to shape these kids into awesome adults headed in the right direction. Growing up I was not an angel and I know it was a struggle to finally break through to me. I had that right role model in my life to tell me what’s up and that someday I would have to grow up and do things on my own.

I didn’t know it then, but that person would make the most influential impact on my life that even to this day I am incredibly grateful for. That person, my father, finally got me to understand that there is so much more to life and then my eyes truly opened for the first time and I never looked back. Because I had that positive influence and saw how important it truly was, I want to be able to be that same person for these kids. The kids at the Lemoyne Center really do have good hearts and they try hard, but are just misguided at points. I can see it when they are so excited to get a homework problem right or to finish a worksheet they never thought they could before. Even in the way they do extra activities like creating posters they are always pursuing to have the best one and be the most creative, all of which are steps in the right direction. Now all we as volunteers have to do is get these kids to use this motivation and determination outside of the center and used in every day life and we will have successfully done our job. I know we are definitely on the right track and soon I have faith that all these kids will be excelling in everything they put their minds and that will be their turning point to never look back. And I am so excited to see that day.



Clean Out Your Refrigerator!

15 Nov

Yesterday, in honor of National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day we taught the students about the history of the potato chip and cotton candy. The students learned about food labels, ingredients and the food pyarmid. We broke them up into stations and they had to create a balanced “sample” meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The students seemed to really enjoy this activity and the overall vibe of the day was very calm—which was GREAT!

Sunshine substitution.

14 Nov

My little brother, my best friend, my main man: Sam. He is the yee to my hah, the reason for my smile, and the light of my life! Sammy is my sunshine. Now granted nobody is perfect not even Sammy. Sammy was born with an extraordinarily rare chromosomal disorder and with such has many types of what some call “disabilities”. It is precisely because of Sammy that I choose to volunteer, he is the reason that I believe that everybody has something to offer, that everybody has different abilities and disabilities and since caring is sharing it is important to share both our abilities and disabilities with others. That is what I like to believe I am doing with America Reads: learning, teaching and leading from others and with my own abilities and disabilities.

With my sunshine back home in Hershey, I thought for sure I would go insane, suffer severe psychological effects of sunshine deprivation. However, courtesy of the kids at America Reads I found a substitute source of sunshine in Pittsburgh! Apparently, it is not just Philadelphia that is always sunny, it is Washington Park too! Every single day I look forward to going to work because I know somebody will be as happy to see me as I am to be there. I also know that somehow even if I do not quite know how, somehow, at least one of these kids will make me smile, especially on those days that are not quite smile worthy. Somehow, I always seem to get hugs on the days I need them most. Even on the difficult days they know how to make my soul gleam with the prospect of their appreciation. They may not always listen, they may not always understand their homework, and they may not always state their appreciation but believe me it is all there. When you really need them to listen and plea with them, they listen. Even though they may not always understand their addition problems or spelling believe me when I say these kids are too smart for their own good. And even though they do not always remember to tell you so, you can tell by the way they react to you and converse with you that they appreciate you and look-up to you!

Try as I may, I can not quite articulate the magic of working with these kids at America Reads but believe me when I say it is a blessing. While nobody can take the place of my Sammy sunshine, these kids do a pretty good job of keeping me sane without him. Each one of these kids has attained a certain inspiring influence over my everyday outlook! And, many of these kids have found a special little place in my heart! Thanks to the kids at America Reads, I do not know what a day without sunshine would be like!


Week 7

14 Nov

Today begins Week 7 at the LeMoyne Center. The students will be taking state assessment exams so we expect them to be full of extra energy at the program. We will be learning about food from different cultures, celebrating Mickey Mouse’s Birthday and learning about the discovery of Antarctica.

Stay tuned…

My Service

11 Nov

My first volunteer work as an Americorp member was at the Washington City Mission. Every Tuesday morning I went and volunteered as a baby sitter for the residents. The intent for the program was a wonderful idea–for babysitters to watch these toddlers while their mothers went to parenting classes or looked for jobs.

Unfortunately,  the program wasn’t carried out as well as it should have been. The residents used the time to nap or relax and smoke instead of doing something constructive.  It was really sad to see how these mothers behaved towards their children. They clearly love them but many of them have addictions that take precedence of their babies.

The babysitting program has ended now because the mothers didn’t use it to help themselves, and so I am volunteering now at the Salvation Army.  This experience was a lesson to me about the importance of good leadership in a volunteer program.The Salvation Army project is very well run and the kids benefit greatly from it.  The atmosphere is wonderful–it’s obvious that the leaders enjoy what they’re doing and have a clear goal for their program.

A more difficult lesson about service that you can take away from my experience is that sometimes we’re not able to do all that we would like for people in bad situations. Sometimes it’s because of a lack in leadership, resources, or cooperation, but there is often a limit to how far our service can go. I could not help these women out at the mission because the program wasn’t executed well, and I had to accept that and look for a different way to help out where I would make a difference.  There’s a lot of hope in this lesson too–with good leadership, help, and planning, even a struggling program can be made into on that will change lives.


Fall Fun!

9 Nov

Yesterday at the LeMoyne the little kids learned about seasons and had a blast picking leaves and then coloring over top of them to see the veins of the leaves.  It was such a beautiful day outside so we took advantage of the nice weather and played on the playground! 🙂