As Rivers students settle into the new year, the Upper School service clubs have been popular choices for co-curricular activities. Students looking for ways to get involved in community issues need look no further than the summertime commitments of their classmates for inspiration. For a number of students, the summer months provided the opportunity to volunteer at local non-profit organizations and build relationships with others in the Metrowest community. They worked with a wide range of people—from preschoolers at an immigration service center to patients at a VA hospital.
Shamila Santana ’21 volunteered for 70 hours at the Veterans Administration Hospital in West Roxbury, working every weekday for several weeks for six to eight hours a day.
“My responsibilities varied from visit to visit, but lots of the time I was escorting our inpatients to their appointments, in pharmacy stocking medicine, or in distribution stocking medical supplies,” commented Shamila. “I liked working with the veterans the most because they all had a lot of stories to tell and advice to give. I learned how to take care of others and how to put others’ needs before mine, not that I’m trying to say that I was selfish but that I acknowledge that I need to have a greater sense of responsibility. It was a great coming of age experience.”
Will Churchill ’20 and Jackie Benjes ’20 volunteered at the Immigrant Family Services Institute in Roslindale, a non-profit agency dedicated to facilitating the successful transition of recent immigrants into the social and economic fabric of their communities.
“I volunteered two to four times a week, mostly during July,” said Will. “My responsibilities definitely varied from visit to visit because oftentimes people were late or didn’t come in, so I had to pick up extra responsibilities. The area where I worked mostly however, was in the STEM section, with a group of kids mostly ages 12-16. Many of these kids needed help with either English skills (as many of them were Haitian immigrants who were first generation in the US) or math skills. A lot of them were also trying to get into different charter and private schools and so we did tutoring around the ISEE and SSAT as well. I loved getting to work with kids who were (for the most part) eager to learn and I usually found that with most interactions we each learned something from each other.” [Will plans to volunteer there throughout the school year, helping with their website and social media.]
“I was the assistant teacher for three weeks in the second grade classroom that had about 14 kids in it," added Jackie. "Each day, we worked on math, English, science, and art. We also had music lessons! I taught group lessons to the class in math, and worked individually with the kids who were struggling with reading during English. During science, we did different experiments, and we did many different fun art experiments. My favorite part of the experience was working with the kids directly and being able to see their progress! I learned a lot about the best ways to teach and work with young kids from a completely different background than my own, and this experience also confirmed that I want to work with kids in the future!”
Tully Mahoney ’19 spent two full weeks at Camp Jabberwocky, a residential vacation camp on Martha’s Vineyard for people living with disabilities.
“The severity of the campers’ disabilities varied throughout the community, and the camp really opened my eyes to see past that and learn about someone’s personality before making any judgement,” Tully reflected. “Before this experience when I saw someone in a wheel chair or relying on a device to walk/talk/etc., the main thing I would focus on was their disability. Although it sounds cliché, the number one thing I learned is you can never judge someone by their appearance.
“I was volunteering 24/7, so my typical day would consist of waking up around 7:30/8:00 a.m. and the campers would go to bed usually around 10:00 p.m. although I would also be sleeping in the cabin with them in case they needed any assistance through the night. My responsibilities through the day would consist of getting four campers their medications and food, and bringing them to activities through the day. Every day we went to the beach in the afternoon, during that I would monitor campers in the water and hold onto their floats if they couldn’t swim on their own so they didn’t float away.
“My favorite lesson about this experience was learning all the new ways people communicated without using words. For example, one camper communicated by looking at a board with her eyes and spelling out the word for you. Although it took a long time to get the hang of using her communication device it was an awesome experience.”
Maggie Monaghan ’19 was a teaching assistant for six weeks at the Steppingstone Foundation which develops and implements programs that prepare underserved students for educational opportunities that lead to college success.
“I was a part of their College Success Academy (CSA), which is a three year program for scholars attending four schools in the city of Boston," Maggie said. "I taught students entering 6th grade in their ELA classes, proctored study hall, led the chorus elective, served lunch, and completed other main office tasks to keep us organized throughout the summer.
“I was given countless opportunities to learn about teaching, facilitating, and leading, and I am grateful for those whose example I now have to follow. Everyone I worked with at Steppingstone had vastly different identities, and we connected on a real level because people were given the space to be genuine. I was encouraged this summer by the willingness of others to get to know and have fun with those whose beliefs and backgrounds were fundamentally different than their own. Having conversations with my mentor teacher, supervisor, TAs, and scholars, made me realize that I have something to learn from every single individual, regardless of their age or background.”