Youth Forward Scholarship 2017 – Unseen, yet meaningful smiles

Name: Anthea Xiao
From: Fremont, California
Grade: Junior
School: Mission San Jose High School
Votes: 0

My
very first volunteer experience was when I became a student tutor at
Fremont charter school as a freshman. Every Monday afternoon from
3:30 to 5:00, a tranquil time when schools are temporarily relieved
from the chimes of class bells and juvenile voices, I would arrive at
the recently founded charter school to tutor children who each had a
unique circumstance that separated them from their peers.

Shrinija
had trouble deciphering textbooks and other reading materials,
because she was a recent immigrant to the U.S. Mike was easily
distracted from the course of work due to being diagnosed with a mild
case of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Cori had difficulty
with mathematic algorithms and would always quietly sit near the book
shelve, completely burying her nose in fairy tales. The list of the
so-called “below average” children continued. Yet from my
experience of being their tutor, they taught me to be
non-discriminative and compassionate. Nothing could be more
satisfactory than being successful in helping students come to the
answer to a math problem or teaching them new vocabularies they will
continue to use in the future. In those four walls enclosing the
cramped classroom, I found infinite potential in my students as we
encountered challenges and conquered them together.

Yet
as the next school year unfolded, I was informed that the school no
longer needed volunteers for afternoon classes. Before I could
process the change, the charter school soon closed due to low
enrollment and poor student performance. The thought of my failure to
improve my students’ grades led me to question the purpose of
volunteering when my efforts made no positive impact.

A
few months later, as I was on my Friday shift volunteering at the
Fremont American Cancer Society shop, my partner Karen proudly pulled
out a photo of her granddaughter’s science project. In the
photograph, I recognized a familiar face; it was Shrinija with a
vibrant grin, while presenting their project. I learned from Karen
that Shrinija had no trouble communicating or adapting to a new
school environment.

After
listening to Karen’s words, I felt myself freed as my doubts toward
volunteering were alleviated. I was again encouraged to partake in
more volunteering opportunities, such as sustaining the Mission San
Jose Garden at my high school to conserved natural resources as
garden manager. As Student Body Representative of our American Cancer
Society Club on campus and an active crewmember of the American
Cancer Society Fremont Discovery shop, I still continue to volunteer
for two hours each week throughout my high school career.

I
learned that although certain impacts we make may not be immediately
evident, they remain meaningful to others in ways we may not imagine.

As
I venture into another chapter of my academic career as an incoming
college freshman, I envision myself continuing to better my community
at the University of Southern California, in the endless pursuit of
bringing more smiles to the world—smiles as bright as Shrinija’s.


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