Meg’s Last Day

9 Mar

Today is Meg’s last day with us at W&J. It would be an understatement to say that she will be missed. She has touched the lives of so many people at this school and within our community. We are so happy for her that she has received this new opportunity and we’re all so proud of her for going after her dreams. We wish her the best of luck with her new job and her continued work with her non-profit, Bev’s Birthdays.

Megs, thank you for inspiring us, challenging us, and reminding us to live with our hands and our hearts open. We’ll miss you!

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A Bittersweet Feeling

25 Feb

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Volunteering with Family Promise has truly been a life-changing experience. I never realized the bond I would create with each of the families. Especially with one family in particular who has been there since I started in September. In a quick few months, I went from a volunteer to a best friend. No matter what mood I was in, when I walked in the door and saw the smiles on those kids’ faces as they ran to me with open arms, I couldn’t help but smile back.

On a particular evening at Family Promise, I was playing the board game, Risk, with one of the older boys. As he slowly took over all the territories, he began to tell me about his life. He mentioned his strong anger toward his Dad, who he blames for why he is in such a horrible situation. He talked about his Mom and how he needed to take care of her. All I did was listen and I could tell that is all he really wanted. Having just met this young boy a few days earlier, I did not expect him to be so open about his situation. He was wearing a Penn State hat, so I asked him if he liked that school and he told me how much he loved it. His face lit up as he told me about his dream of playing football there and studying all about Egypt. In an instance, it seemed as though he took a look around at the church basement and suddenly his grin slowly faded. He claimed that his dream will never come true because of the situation he is stuck in. I encouraged him to keep his dream alive and do whatever it takes to achieve it. I returned to my room later that evening and just cried. I thought about how college for me was something that was just expected, never something far out of reach. I thought about how he explains his situation to his friends or if he has a hard time even making any friends. Suddenly, my professor wasn’t so horrible for assigning me all this homework and my life really is not as hard as I think it is sometimes. I think we all take what we have for granted and you don’t realize it until you see a person who without this program would not have a warm place to sleep tonight. I can’t even imagine how hard that has been on him. Although he is no longer a part of the program, I know I will never forget that boy or the impact he had on my life.

As they say, all great things must come to an end. However, for the only family remaining, it is just the beginning. They are close to finding a place to live and I realize that every time I see these kids may be my last. However, when it comes to these kids, out of sight will never be out of mind.I know my consistency in their lives has helped them to forget even for just a second, the constant inconsistently which they live in. Although it saddens me to think I will never see them, I am so happy that they are able to get out of this horrible situation. I will never forget the relationship I have created with each of  them or the impact that they have made on my life.

Tori Bishop

New Year, Not New Changes

19 Feb

A new year means a new start, right? Unfortunately this cannot be said for the families that rely on the Family Promise Program. While some of them come and go, one family has been there from the start, well my start that is. I started volunteering with the Family Promise Program last September and there is one family that has been there this whole time.

For those of you who don’t know, the Family Promise Program provides a roof over the heads of families who have nowhere else to go. During the day, the families stay the “house” and then after 5 o’clock they go to one of the participating churches. They stay the night at these churches for a week and then move on to another one.

But as the months went on I became less of a volunteer and more of a friend of the family’s. The kids know my name and get excited when I come to visit with them. Their mom talks to me like an equal. I thoroughly enjoy spending time with them. Despite the smiles that are ever present, the fact that this mother and her three kids are homeless never leaves my mind, not for a second.

I have grown very attached to this family and want them best for them. That means that they move on and find themselves a better life, and I hope that this happens for them. Not only have I made an impact on their lives but they have impacted mine too. I have grown as a person and appreciate and no longer take for granted the simple things in life, because all too fast they can disappear.

~Taylor

A very proud moment…

16 Feb

Last week I was volunteering at the LeMoyne Center, when one second grade student was pestering and calling Hayden names. Since I first met Hayden we have been talking and trying to find non-violent solutions whenever a student might bother him. It hasn’t been going very well until last week.

Instead of hitting the other student, Hayden went and sat in a corner on the floor without anyone saying something to him. I saw him sitting there so I went and sat with him. He told me that he wanted to beat up the student that was bothering him, but didn’t. We ended up talking about what he did on his birthday and what his presents were.

By the time we were done talking, his angry face was gone, his arms were uncrossed, and he was smiling. I could not have been more proud of him at that moment. He chose to do the right thing and just take time to cool off.

Now whenever I go and he sees me, he runs and gives me a great big hug. It is really moments like this, when you can make a difference in one child’s life that makes volunteering worth it.

-Chelsea

First Experience at President’s Prep.

15 Feb

It was great, actually! It was like being back in high school, though. I was still one of the shorter ones… 🙂

The kids were more respectful than I expected. I was a bit slow on how the schedule went, but I’ll get the hang of it. I expect the Pres Prep program to be extremely rewarding. I can’t wait to go back next Wednesday! (I have the flu or something of the like this week and had to miss.) 😦

 

-Emily

Realizing how Important Volunteering Is

14 Feb

Last week, I found myself incredibly busy and coming down with some sickness (I now know that it is Strep Throat). I was only able to volunteer for one day, and part of another day.

This week, I have Strep Throat in full swing. My body aches, my fever is up, and I’ve quarantined myself to my room for most of the day. I’ve missed some class, some organization meetings, and some time with friends.

The thing that I miss most, though, is not being able to volunteer. I choose to stay away from the LeMoyne Center, mostly, because I do not want to get the children sick. I also could not volunteer at the Family Promise event (and will not be able to until I am non-contagious, starting tomorrow).

It is literally making me go insane and wearing on my heart to not be able to tutor the kids at the LeMoyne and help the families at Family Promise.

Being sick has made me realize that volunteering is a HUGE part of my life, and it should be a substantial part of the lives of others. I really cannot think of anything more meaningful or more rewarding than living life in the service of others, and I miss the kids, all of the kids, very dearly.

When I am feeling better, the first thing I am going to do is prepare for my work at the LeMoyne. After that, I am going to work with Meg and Claire and the other volunteers to spread the word about the LeMoyne Center and the other volunteer opportunities that we can be involved in here at W&J.

We have the incredible capability to essentially operate a homework and more program, to tutor high school, middle school, and elementary school children, to help out families in need, to aid the salvation army, to help with food pantries, and more. We can spread out knowledge and our experience and receive the experience and knowledge of those who live life in a different world than our own. We are lucky and privileged to be able to give back so much, and I want to see us work to give back more.

Being sick stinks when you realize that you are unable to do something that is so important to you. I cannot wait to get back to volunteering.

-Dylan F.

Changing “I can’t” to “I can”

8 Feb

I don’t like the words “I can’t.” I can’t do this, I can’t do that. I’m not old enough, I’m not smart enough, it’s too hard, I’m dumb. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.

Those words haunt me. I am what my mother might call a “glass-half-empty” kind of person. As a rule, I tend to see the negatives before the positives. This is something that I am not very fond of about myself and I have made it my mission over the last four years or so to eradicate “I can’t” statements from my life. That math problem set? I can finish that. Those last two minutes on the treadmill? I can do those too. That argument I had with my sister over something silly? I can be the first person to admit I’m wrong.

Choosing to say “I can” isn’t easy. It’s more than just saying the words, it’s about changing your attitude. At President’s Prep one of my favorite students lives a life full of “I can’t”s. Not that I really blame him. His life is full of obstacles that I can’t even fathom. The first day that I met him he informed me that he was “stupid.” I loathe that word. I could see that he really meant it, he really believed that he was stupid. And why wouldn’t he? It was all that he had ever heard; from his mom, his stepfather, his friends, his teachers. He was struggling through his freshman year of high school with the reading comprehension of a 5th or 6th grader. As we worked through a reading assignment he told me that he couldn’t do this, even as he gave me several correct answers in a row. I told him that he COULD do this, that he was doing it right now. He continued to insist that he couldn’t and eventually stopped answering questions at all.

This continued for weeks. He resisted, I persisted. I banned the words “dumb” and “stupid” from our time together. Kate and the other tutors and I kept at him. It was tough, it was frustrating, it was disheartening.

Until he resisted a little less one day. And the next. And then he volunteered to read in one of his support classes. And got 100% on two vocabulary tests in a row. I still held my breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop, until one day when I was quizzing him on words for an upcoming vocabulary test. I wanted to run through the words one more time, but he looked at me and said, “Alex, enough. I can do this.”

That’s when I knew that he was going to be ok. And so was I. He reminded me to stick to my “I can” promise. It reaffirmed that hard work, persistence, and compassion will always get you farther in life (and volunteer work) than doubt. And that was a lesson that I needed to be reminded of.

-Alex