Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” The first time I heard this quote was from my University of San Francisco (USF) tutor in middle school. I, at the time, didn’t grasp the deep meaning of the quote. I remember how inspired I was by my USF tutor because of how she had taken time out of her busy life to help me with math homework.
I knew from that moment that when I grew up I wanted to be caring just like her — and I’m not saying this because she gave me ice cream. Above all, I had discovered my passion: to spend my life helping children.
During my junior year of high school, I was assigned a required service learning project. While some girls were dreading having to volunteer, I, on the other hand, was excited, which is an understatement. I decided to volunteer at 826 Valencia, a nonprofit organization that focuses on providing free services to Bay Area youth, from ages 6-18. My “partner in crime” Sabrina and I decided to volunteer at 826 Valencia’s after school program.
I interviewed my friend Sabrina and the program director Jorge to gain more knowledge on the program and their personal experiences.
Running a program isn’t easy, but Jorge sure does make it look easy. Jorge has been working at 826 Valencia for many years now. After school programs are where children usually go when parents can’t pick them up right away.
Interview with Jorge:
What makes 826 Valencia’s programs special from other after school programs?
826 Valencia is a place where children have a social space to do their homework — a place where children safely gain knowledge and make new friends. When choosing a job, I think it’s important to love what you do.
Why did you choose to work at 826 Valencia?
I received an art degree in college. I peer tutored my buddies through college. And I resonated with the mission statement from 826 Valencia. As a program director, there is always something new for me to learn.
What have you learned from working with children?
Children are extremely energetic and I have to use my creative side to think of projects that keep them busy after they finish their homework. Being part of a community is one the best things in life because you feel like you are part of a second family.
Is it important to give back to your community?
Absolutely. I believe everyone should give back and help the community, especially if a person once received help from it.
Interview with Sabrina:
Why did you choose 826 Valencia?
Out of all the places that came to mind, I thought of volunteering at 826 Valencia first, especially since I considered their after school program my second home.
Do you have any special connection to the program?
I technically grew up in this program. It enhanced my academic skills.
How was your experience as a volunteer?
My experience was amazing because I got to know the kids who are the new generation of 826 Valencia. I also saw some old friends from the program that were tutoring just like me and giving back to their community. Little kids could be a handful sometimes.
What have you learned from working with children?
One of the biggest things I learned is to have patience because children are so energetic and can get distracted easily.
Would you recommend volunteering at an after school program? Why?
Of course! I think it’s great since children always need the extra help, especially since homework is more challenging now than it used to be. Children need an environment other than school and home to do their homework.
During my time volunteering at 826 Valencia, the children’s energy brought back memories to when I was enthusiastic like them. Each of the children I tutored had a different way of learning. Some memorized their vocabulary words by spelling the word out several times. Others by looking at the word once and memorizing it. One thing they had in common is that they each had a drive to learn.
After each time I kept on going to the after school program, I slowly became attached to the children. Whenever they would see me they would jump for joy and rush to hug me.
This experience made me realize the importance of not only giving back to the community but in also being a mentor to children. The future of the world is dependent on children, therefore, it’s important that they obtain an education in order to accomplish amazing things.
Learn more about tutoring, mentorship, and after school program volunteer opportunities in your community by visiting VolunteerMatch.org.
About the author: Michelle is very down to earth. She loves root beer and awesome stand-up comedy. She will be heading off to UC Merced for college this fall, and will be making new friends that Moo! She enjoys helping others with a smile on her face, which is why she became part of the ambassadors club at her school.
Michelle wants to pursue a career in social work to help people become aware of the many benefits our world offers.
Tess loves her role as VolunteerMatch's Senior Marketing Manager because she gets to put words to work for social good! When not reading and writing, Tess spends her time obsessing over her cat and getting excited about food. She holds a Master’s of Nonprofit Leadership and a B.A. in Public Relations.