Volunteering in the community has become extremely popular among teenagers.
The allure of showing off volunteer hours and awards on their college resumes is often what prompts teenagers to get involved in the community. Although this is important, a lot more comes out of volunteering than just benefits for ourselves.
I recently joined the Amherst Youth Engaged in Service (YES) Volunteer Program. YES volunteers provide service through direct interaction with children, senior citizens, low-income families, persons who are mentally and/or physically challenged, and charitable organizations.
I joined with the same mindset as just about every other teenager: “This will look excellent on my college resume.” I joined with a few of my friends and we were all very excited to get started and begin earning our hours of volunteering for our resumes.
After I volunteered at several events, I found that instead of wanting to simply “get through” the hours, I was truly enjoying myself. It’s amazing how putting away your cellphone and really talking and getting to know people can make you feel.
Sometimes I feel as if we are so trapped in ourselves and in our cellphones and social media that we hardly know how to communicate face to face anymore. When I put my phone away for several hours, I honestly felt like it was easier to talk to people. I would walk out at the end of the night with a smile on my face and a warm feeling in my heart.
There was something about helping others that made me feel this way. I felt like for once the focus was off of me and my own problems. I had to learn how to help people and understand their emotions and feelings about certain actions or ideas. I needed to know when someone was uncomfortable or when they were in need of something. I had to be able to read body language, and I gained good people skills as a result.
Something that I found out about myself as I kept volunteering was that I enjoy working with children the most. There is something about the way they smile at me and laugh when I play games or color with them. I feel as though I can see my young self in them.
One night I helped baby-sit some elementary school students while their parents were at a meeting. There was one little girl who stood out to me. She came in and saw me coloring with the other children and seemed automatically enchanted by the array of crayons.
She watched me intently for a few minutes before asking me to help her with her own drawing. I showed her different ways to color and how to make different colors stand out. It was such an amazing feeling to be teaching a young child how to do something.
She continued to smile at me as we colored and I will never forget how, at the end of the session, she came up to me with her drawing and told me that she had made it for me. It was such a kind action from such a young child and I left that night with a feeling of true happiness inside me. I taught a little girl something and she truly cherished it, even at the age of 5.
There is something about volunteering that makes it not so much about the task as it is about helping others. It’s as if you would do it even if you didn’t gain anything from it. It opens your eyes to new experiences and new people, it teaches you how to deal with situations and help people. Most of all, it brings you back to reality.
I am so blessed to have had this opportunity to help out within the community. Although I have only just begun my volunteering endeavors, I am excited to experience more. I’ve learned to be more selfless, and I think it is a truly enlightening experience that many people will cherish.
Kristin Westmiller is a sophomore at Williamsville East High School.
Sometimes I feel as if we are so trapped in ourselves and in our cellphones and social media that we hardly know how to communicate face to face anymore.