Youth Forward Scholarship 2018 – CIEE Volunteer

Name: Sienna Torney
From: pinole, CA
Grade: senior
School: Pinole Valley High School
Votes: 30

In the summer of 2017, I volunteered as a Children’s Education
Advocate in Santiago, Dominican Republic. It was one of the most
insightful experiences of a lifetime. Participating in this program
afforded me the opportunity to learn more about myself and how I
adapt to stressful situations.

I stayed with a host family for 3 weeks where only one person in the
house spoke English. Learning Spanish was the only way to
communicate. Speaking Spanish and acclimating to the new culture were
challenging for me because they took me out of my comfort zone. It
was my first time out of the country without an adult and I had to
adapt to this new culture’s way of life and practice communicating
in another language. At first, I was completely stressed and did not
know how I was going to continue doing this for three weeks. I
learned that different countries have different social structures and
being accustomed to life in the U.S., I went there partially
tendentious. I realized how privileged living in the U.S. is after
staying in an economically undeveloped country.

As an education advocate, I woke up at 6 am every day and took a local
bus to the school, Santa Maria, where I held a summer camp for four
hours a day. The students and I would play games, play sports,
practice speaking English and Spanish, and talk about the differences
between the U.S. and the D.R. On other days I would bus to a local
community and paint houses for families who can’t afford
renovations.

I think experiencing a different culture expanded my mindset and
cultural awareness. Because of this experience, I want to travel as
much as possible. Being aware and able to adapt to different
societies is a trait I would like to develop as a young adult. This
experience meant a lot to me because being able to work with and help
impoverished kids helped me realize how much I enjoy philanthropy and
want to continue volunteering for children’s rights programs around
the world.


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