Name: Kaia Burkum
From: Solon, Iowa
School: Solon High School
My volunteer work began with an outrageous idea, an idea which required
accomplishing what my school district had never seen the like of.
Four seniors, myself included, would direct and produce a musical for
the middle school. This creative kids’ art program wasn’t my
idea, unfortunately, but rather the brainchild of another involved.
The reason why I joined, and eventually captained the effort, was my
passion for sharing the acting experience and instructing, as well as
a private desire to give an opportunity to the kids that I never had
in middle school.
At first, the proposition wasn’t taken with much seriousness. How
could four teens obtain a license, reserve a space, audition, cast
and costume eighty kids, create a rehearsal schedule, build a set,
etc, etc.? The list went on and on. When laid out as such, it seems
like a lot of extra unnecessary work just to volunteer; honestly,
when put that way, I would have to agree. But anyone who’s had a
passion will understand. It’s not just about the eight hours of
work a day, five days a week for four months, some of it in rehearsal
but the rest of it spent planning for the next day. It’s not just
the extreme stress when arguments start between you and the others
because of artistic disagreements, or a mistake is made that almost
causes the entire production to be shut down. Those aren’t the
things that kept me going as a volunteer.
What kept me going was how the kids lit up when we told them that costume
fittings would start today. It was learning how to cope with
finances, working with a higher authority, and compromising. It was
finding many parent and student volunteers who believed in us so much
that they gave up their time to sew costumes and put the set
together. Most of all, it was seeing how overjoyed the kids were when
they received a standing ovation, and the satisfaction of knowing
that I had helped change their lives.
The experience taught me so much, from time management to how kids’
attention spans work to compromise, and these skills will stay with
me throughout my other volunteer work, schooling, and career. I
haven’t decided yet on a career path, but I know that theatre will
play a part. I believe in self-expression, and for many people, the
ability to become someone else onstage is the greatest venue for
their true selves to shine. I see this volunteer work as “forward
looking” because it opens the way for other students to accomplish
projects that aren’t taken seriously; in my opinion, “forward
looking” means working towards a goal with the aim of making it
common. I hope to come back many years from now and see a new
generation of middle schoolers fulfill their dreams to act on a
stage, the doors thrown wide open with many more people volunteering
to give the kids a chance to express their emotions and thoughts.