This issue, The Vanguard explored past and current community service experiences in hopes of sharing inspiring stories. We asked Upper School (US) students who had completed a substantial amount of community service to capture a meaningful moment from the past few years, and we collected photos from the Afternoon of Service on Wednesday last week, when US students took part in on-campus and off-campus service activities.
Emma Rashes ’17
For almost four years, Community Service Club President Emma Rashes ’17 has been involved with the Margaret Fuller House, an organization that provides a holistic set of services designed to aid vulnerable youth. There she volunteers and fundraises for the institution and worked as the Educational Program Intern, helping organize STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) field trips and lessons for the students.
“The experience of helping the kids with their homework or playing board games and seeing them discover, learn, and grow is so rewarding. These acts may seem small, but they mean so much to students in the after-school program. I love when students tell me that they are excited for the STEAM programming, they want to become a scientist, or they are interested in attending college because I know that the programming at Margaret Fuller is exposing them to these opportunities.
At BB&N, we are privileged to receive a first-class education. Sometimes we take this gift for granted. I am reminded when I am volunteering at Margaret Fuller that we cannot underestimate the value of our education. I certainly am guilty of complaining about excessive homework and difficult classes, but I often try to remember that there are kids all around us who live without the privilege of excellent STEAM education. This experience illuminates the need for us to work toward more equal educational systems so that generations after us do not have to live with this inequality.”
Emory Sabatini ’18
Emory Sabatini ’18 also volunteered at the Margaret Fuller House after-school program where he played, prepared snacks, and aided K-8 students with homework.
“I remember one boy in kindergarten—I’ll call him Ryan. Ryan would always want to play with me, have me sit with him during snack, and help him with his homework. To get me to hang out with him, Ryan even went so far as to physically attach himself to me and not let go until I agreed to do something with him. We were largely inseparable, and I can honestly say that I genuinely enjoyed spending time with him. I’ve never been one to make friends with people younger than I am, but all of a sudden I found myself with a 5 year old best friend. I would look forward to seeing Ryan every Tuesday and Wednesday, and I knew he felt the same as well.
My biggest takeaway from the experience was that community service never turns out the way you expect it to. When I first arrived at MFH in November, I expected to do the work and enjoy it but not gain anything personally from it. Now, I have at least a friend or two over 10 years younger whom I know I can visit anytime.”
Kaveri Bhargava ’19
Travelling to India as part of her service, Kaveri Bhargava ’19 worked with Aasraa, an organization that strives to empower children from the slums through education, vocational training, nutrition, medical care, and the provision of shelter homes. Explaining that many of the children lacked basic English and math, Kaveri said she could use her Hindi skills to communicate.
“It was such an amazing experience teaching them because as soon as they got the concept that I was trying to teach them, we smiled at each other, exchanged high fives, and moved on to the next concept. Even though what I was teaching them was so simple, it still gave me joy to know they understood the concept and were able to apply it further.”
Maggie Swanson ’18
For three summers Maggie Swanson ’18 has volunteered as a teaching assistant at Horizons, a camp for underprivileged kids where students swim and play tennis as well as catch up on schoolwork.
“In the beginning of my first summer, I was with the third grade, and we started every day with a circle. On this particular day, the question of the circle was to share how the students’ weekends went. Most kids said typical summer activities, like a family barbecue or swimming at the local pool. When it got to one student, he was really excited because he got to sleep over at his aunt’s house with his cousins. The reason for this was because a cousin on his mother’s side got shot, and his mom had to spend the weekend at the hospital with the cousin. I was shocked, but once the kid finished, the next kid spoke, and everyone just moved on as though that w
as a normal occurrence. This definitely made me grateful for what I had and helped me understand that my reality is not everyone’s reality. It also made me get a better picture of what the kids were dealing with on a regular basis, particularly in terms of violence.”
Ethan Voligny ’19
Ethan Voligny ’19 volunteered at the Arlington Boys and Girls Club, a nonprofit that seeks to create a fun, safe, and supportive place for children. Ethan worked in the game room and on the basketball court, interacting with elementary school kids.
“One of the most heartfelt moments I had at the Arlington Boys and Girls Club was just a few weeks into volunteering. I was leaving quite late that day, around 7:30, and a small boy approached me. He was someone who I remember seeing both in the game room and on the basketball court, but I couldn’t recall his name. He said to me, ‘Thanks for playing with me, Ethan, I’ll see you on Tuesday.’ I was astonished he knew my name, let alone the days I went there. It brought to my mind how much the little things in life are seen by others—even this small kid was thankful for my playing with him.”
Emma Voligny ’17
Emma Voligny ’17 volunteered with HOPE Worldwide, an international charity that seeks to change lives through community-based services to the poor and needy. At the Door of Faith Orphanage of La Misión, Mexico, part of Emma’s work was building houses for families in the community picked by lottery.
“When we arrived at the house, we saw that the foundation was laid, and right next to it was a small hut. There were nine people living in the small hut—for them to be able to use the space during the day, they had to move the beds. We ended up building the house in 10 days, but the family we built the house for had the greatest impact on me.
The grandmother told us that it was such a blessing from God to have been chosen by the lottery. She had a very bad hip, and she could only move with a walker, yet she travelled out of town every day to work. When we got to know her better, she told us that she had been saving thousands of U.S. dollars over the years to have a hip surgery. However, one evening a group of soldiers came to their house and demanded all of the family’s money, including the hip replacement money. Now she cannot afford to have her hip fixed anymore. She went on to say that because of this, she had been praying for a miracle, and that our giving her a house was the miracle she prayed for.
From this I learned that it doesn’t take a lot to make a huge difference. I mean, sure, building a house is a huge deal—but I left after two weeks. That isn’t a whole lot of time. But the house stayed in Mexico, and because of those two weeks, the family has a house where they can lock their door and sleep peacefully.”
Bobby Tearney ’18
For his sixth grade Bar Mitzvah project, Bobby Tearney ’18 started working with the Special Olympics and Best Buddies. His cousin Jack’s autism inspired him to build relationships with adults and kids with disabilities and to give them the opportunity to play sports. Since then, he has volunteered for the Brookline Special Olympics, helping facilitate and coach flag football, basketball, and track and field.
“Three years ago, the head of the Brookline Recreation Program came up to me during the first basketball practice of the season and told me to keep my eyes open for a 16-year-old named Daniel, who for the first 15 minutes refused to touch a basketball or talk to anybody, for that matter. That day, when I went up to Daniel for the first time, I started what has become one of the most important friendships I have in my life. Now, three years later, I still work one-on-one with Daniel sometimes, and being able to watch how he has grown on the court and off has been the most rewarding part of my volunteer work thus far. I hope to continue my relationships with Daniel and the rest of the Brookline Special Olympics community and to bring my passion to college, continuing work with both the school’s Best Buddies program and the local Special Olympics.”
Katherine Whitaker ’19
Katherine Whitaker ’19 volunteered last summer at the Rose Kennedy Greenway, a mile and a half of parks for the Boston public. While she worked at the donations office, Katherine also gave tours of the park and chaperoned kids who came to the Greenway on field trips.
“There was this one girl named Lila who I instantly connected with. She lived in South Boston, and she really enjoyed art, which is one of my passions, too. There’s a drawing cart on the Greenway for kids to illustrate animals or trees in the park, and she and I spent the whole afternoon drawing her favorite animal, the octopus. At the end of the day, her mom picked her up, and when Lila didn’t want to leave, she asked if I’d like to babysit her. For the next few months, I took care of Lila when her parents were working. I think that the main point for the Greenway is to connect people, and I’m so glad I got to volunteer there and build relationships with so many great people. I look forward to it next summer.”
Jacob Licht ’17
Most Sundays for the past three years, Jacob Licht ’17 has volunteered at Gateways, a Hebrew school for children with special needs. There he teaches kids Hebrew, gives lessons about Judaism, and also works on their social skills.
“One of my students was named Jacob, as I am. Whenever he would tell me his name, I would say to him, ‘You can’t be Jacob,—I’m Jacob!’ He would laugh, and then one day when his mother came to pick him up, he smiled at her, pointed to my name tag, and said ‘Look, Mom—he’s Jacob, too!’ That moment was really gratifying for me.”
Eve Grimshaw ’18
As a freshman inspired by her siblings’ community service, Eve Grimshaw ’18 decided to travel to Qenqo, Peru. During her two-week trip, she worked with kids, teaching them English, playing soccer, and helping build them a community center.
“I remember one particular night ‘in the village’. We planned a lesson around teaching the little kids simple songs and games like “Hokey Pokey” and “Telephone”, but as the sun set behind the mountains surrounding us, we changed our idea. One of the girls started playing Justin Bieber out of her phone, and we all started dancing around. We taught them how to whip and do the dougie. The kids were mimicking us, and we were all laughing so hard. After an hour of this, which was very hard at such a high altitude, we all lay down on the field and watched the stars. While it was only one night out of a very memorable two weeks, it has stayed with me.”