Upon entering my freshman year at UMBC, I was given the opportunity to volunteer at the YMCA College Gardens through the Shriver center. I had such an amazing time that I knew I plan to volunteer there for the remainder of my four years at UMBC. Thus, I decide to use my service as my activism project.
YMCA is a community-based youth outreach program located in the nearby Yale Heights neighborhood (about 10 minutes from UMBC), and is a longstanding partner of the Shriver Center. The mission of College Gardens is to provide a safe environment for children K-6 to grow and learn about not only typical school subjects, but also important life skills such as responsibility, respectfulness, and compassion for one another.
The program seeks to help children from low-economic areas or possibly suffering instability in their family. Regardless of what the child circumstances maybe, this had led the children to lack in their academic skills. Many of the children, YMCA serves are reading below their grade level, they have low math performances. The children lack motivation to learn. They easily get frustration when it comes to doing their homework. They have zero aspirations for college. My goal at College Gardens was to show the children show them the importance of an education, and encourage them that they indeed have a bright future ahead of them. These children are our future generation, it is important that we invest in them.
Which is why what the College Gardens with the help of UMBC college volunteers are doing is important. This program addresses the problems of why these children lack behind in educational aspects and changing their negative outlook into a positive one. Because by providing them with the necessary tools, we are building them up for success in this cutthroat world.
For my role at College Gardens, I am volunteer/ tutor and or mentor to the children. I volunteer weekly every Wednesday from 2:30-5pm. I am there to help in any way I can. After dinner downstairs, the children engaged in homework time. It is during that time, I help assist the kids with their homework. So far, with helping, I have noticed improvements with the kids I worked with. They can easily do their assignments with minimal assistance. Sometimes the children go outside and enjoy recreational activities. They children also participate in enriching experiments that teaches them about science. Recently, the program started implementing an incentives program, where, the kids can be rewarded with money that allows them to purchase items from the store. However in order to earn this fake money, they must be fully engaged in whatever activity the volunteer has for them. This has been a fun time for the children because of the amazing prizes they are able to purchase.
Working with the kids brought happiness to me, seeing the kids smile really made me enjoy my volunteer experience. I have develop a close bond with some of the kids there, that when I am come, I am greeted with hugs. This experience had made me understand the real meaning of activism. I am being an activist by making a difference in my community regardless of the scale or impact. My small presence has been mighty to me. Witnessing some of the harsh realities of our failed educational system due to a child environment, I have decide to take on a project. That project is that improving children academic skills is a working progress. It is not something that can be just completed and left. My realization of that has made me want to pursue continuing volunteering at College Gardens for the remainder of my Ungraduated Career. I believe that only way I can make a meaningful impact on these children lives, it is if I am there with them, on their journey. If I am there, until the time I at least graduate I can grow with these kids and actually see the improvement. These children are our future, and by working with them, we are contributing to the success of them.