Youth Forward Scholarship Summer 2018 – Small Actions, Big Difference

Name: Sanjana Goli
From: San Jose, California
Grade: 12
School: Dartmouth College
Votes: 0

“Sanjana, don’t be worried! It’ll be fun,” my sister pacified me as I
walked into the volunteering program for the first time. Despite her
reassurance, I couldn’t wipe the look of apprehension from my face
as I thought to myself, “What if they don’t like me? What if I
can’t help them?” I didn’t know what to expect.

As I opened the dance studio door for the first time, I was greeted by a
energetic boy around my age who said, “Hi, my name is Vaibhav and I
love to dance! What’s your name?” My look of apprehension quickly
faded into a smile. It surprised me to find out later that day that
Vaibhav was a special-needs student. It got me thinking: why is there
such a large social stigma attached to people with “special needs”?
By categorizing people as “special-needs,” society highlights
their disabilities, masking their true talents. I realized that the
larger public needs to be more educated in what it means to have
“special-needs.” Jeena, the program I have been part of for the
past six years, aims to showcase the talents of special-needs
children, allowing them to share through performances what they are
passionate about.

As I continue to achieve my goal of helping the students feel
comfortable dancing, I’ve also grown into a more compassionate,
understanding, and open-minded person by showing genuine interest in
the students’ lives. For two hours every week when I go to the
class, I not only want to share my passion for dancing with the
students, but I also find that I am interested in their personal
lives, which allows me to form stronger friendships with the

For the past few years, I have been working closely with a teenage girl
named Pallavi, and I’ve come to love Pallavi’s shy, yet joyful
and energetic nature. After working closely with Pallavi for a few
months, I was given a beautifully-written article by her mother.
Although I was initially surprised that Pallavi, who has trouble
focusing and verbally expressing herself, had written such a moving
article, I realized her amazing abilities are manifested within
written works. When I went up to Pallavi and complimented her piece,
her face lit up with one of the biggest smiles I had ever seen, and I
learned in that moment that the smallest actions can have the biggest
impact on others’ lives.

Working with special-needs children is one of the most rewarding experiences
I have taken part in. Despite how society labels particular
communities, it is important to see past the inaccurate titles and
focus on the similarities. I’m grateful that my volunteering
efforts have made impact on several students’ lives, just as they
have made an impact on mine. Overall, I’ve learned that the
smallest actions can make the biggest difference, and I strongly
encourage others to take these small steps to make a big difference.

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