Youth Forward scholarship 2016 – Changing the World One Child at a Time

Name: Kathleen McSloy
From: Easley, South Carolina
Grade: 12th
School: Wren High School
Votes: 0

Volunteering has been a prominent part of my life since I was nine years old when
I began working with able-bodied and special needs kids. I
volunteered with a program called Happy Hooves that teaches children
of all mental and physical abilities to ride horses. I was lucky
enough to be included in this program because of my love for horses
and my riding experience at this barn. I volunteered two to three
times a week during the school year and four to five times a week
during the summer, the summer days being from eight-o-clock in the
morning to five-o-clock at night. I did this for close to ten years
and still volunteer as often as I can at this facility and other
facilities that help special-needs children.

I was responsible for leading horses and explaining how to steer the
horse, and with special-needs kids, I was often responsible for
helping the child retain balance on the horse. It is a great feeling
when I can help these kids feel empowered, and this means that I took
my responsibilities very seriously. The biggest issue I faced,
however, when volunteering would have to be when one of the children
started to feel angry or sad at something and would get upset. This
was so difficult to deal with because my heart broke for those kids,
but I also had to calm them down because temper tantrums aren’t
safe to do on horseback. I had to be firm but empathetic and let them
know I was there to help them. I have learned that every child has a
right to have a hobby and be able to connect with horses, despite any
physical or cognitive issues. I truly believe that this realization
has given me the most satisfaction because I look at the world
differently now… I see every child as a human being with the
opportunity to learn. I hear derogatory terms aimed at special needs
children every day, yet I know the truth: They are no different from
you and me. They are human.

I am studying English in college to become a professor, and I do think
my ability to speak and understand a variety of young people will
benefit me in the future. I see this as “forward looking” because
this volunteer work has created increased communication skills and a
tolerance for different types of people.

I hope that my volunteering will change the way people view individuals
with special needs. My whole time volunteering gave me knowledge that
I can use to help others see the light that radiates within everyone,
not just the able-bodied and able-minded. I truly believe that my
volunteering made, and continues to make, a difference. I may not
have changed the world yet, but I know I changed a lot of kids’
worlds, and for that, I am proud and inspired.

Join our Facebook group "Volunteers for a Better World".