What do you do for volunteer work and how did you get involved with it?
Margaret: I currently volunteer for the East Somerville Community School. I work with bilingual students by helping to evaluate their fluency in both Spanish and English, while also helping them understand their school work in class. I got involved in this wonderful volunteering opportunity by taking the Spanish 59 class, called Spanish in the Community, which requires four hours of community service each week as part of the class. Through certain bilingual volunteering programs, I was able to find this one, where I feel I have connected really well with the students and teachers there.
Courtney: I volunteer for the Phillips Brooks House Mission Hill Afterschool Program. In this program, I go to the Mission Hill community center in Boston once a week to serve as a counselor for the afterschool program that operates every weekday. During the program, I work with a few students in 7th and 8th grade by helping them with their homework and engaging in group activities. Each day of the program, we have a “curriculum,” in which the students participate in a fun learning game or activity. I became involved with Mission Hill after hearing about the program from a friend. I did similar volunteering programs in high school, so I instantly knew that I wanted to be a part of Mission Hill. I went through the application process last year and have loved the program every since then!
Does it relate to your concentration at all or were you looking for different ways to get involved in the community?
Margaret: Most importantly, this service work has helped me become closely involved in the community around me. I have truly enjoyed spending time helping others and creating long-lasting relationships at the ESCS. Although this does not exactly relate to my concentration, I do hope to obtain either a citation or secondary in Spanish, and one of the best ways to practice Spanish is by utilizing it while also benefiting society through community service.
Courtney: While the Mission Hill program doesn’t particularly relate to my concentration, I thought that volunteering within Boston would be a great way to connect more with the community so close to Harvard. Being a part of the Harvard community has been such an amazing and unique experience, but I also have cherished the opportunity to see more of the community around me in Boston. I have learned so much from working with Mission Hill, and I look forward to seeing the kids each week to build better connections.
Did the local work open doors for other opportunities to volunteer, travel etc.?
Margaret: This local work has helped me to discover many more community service opportunities both around Cambridge and abroad. Since taking the class, I have discovered The David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies which is a great resource to find even more Spanish/English community service needs around the globe (and locally).
Courtney: After this local work, I had the opportunity to be a counselor for the Coach for College program this summer in rural Vietnam. In Vietnam, I taught math and coached soccer for a three-week summer camp. Working with Mission Hill gave me more experience with tutoring and serving as a counselor for an organized program. I believe that this experience made me much more equipped to work with students in a classroom setting.
What is the most rewarding part of working with the kids?
Margaret: The most rewarding part of working with the children is building close relationships with them over the course of the semester, while also watching their improvement academically as each week goes by. One of the best feelings is helping a student out with their work so that you can see them begin to understand concepts that they didn’t before, especially to the extent that they are able to do it on their own, without any help.
Courtney: In my opinion, the most rewarding part of working with my students is seeing how the connections both between counselors and students and between the students themselves grow over time. I have worked with the same group of kids for two semesters, and our relationships have grown so much. By building trust with the kids over time, I have noticed how much more they open up to me and come to me with questions or to talk. Seeing how far the relationships within the program have progressed makes the entire experience so much more rewarding.
Do you see yourself doing something like this post-grad?
Margaret: I personally would love to continue helping children in the future, possibly in the academic realm. There is no better feeling than knowing that you have made a positive impact on a student’s learning experience, whether that be from encouragement, teaching, or creating close connections with the students.
Courtney: I am very likely to continue volunteering and working with children in the future! Mentoring and tutoring have been so beneficial and rewarding in my own life, so I love the opportunity to share what I have learned with others.