Youth Forward Scholarship Summer 2018 – The Inextricable Link Between Community Improvement and Self-Fulfillment

Name: Grace Cajski
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Grade: 11
School: Lusher Charter
Votes: 0

Grace Cajski

The Inextricable Link Between Community Improvement and Self-Fulfillment

Volunteerism has transformed me into a better person. I am more reconnaissant of
my blessings and more grateful for my community. Beginning the summer
before eighth grade, I volunteered for Ochsner Hospital here in New
Orleans, Louisiana; I continued to volunteer there the following
summer. During the school year, I volunteered with my school’s Key
Club, eventually rising to my current position as President. I have
contributed more than 300 service hours to my community, averaging at
two service hours per week during the school year.

I am driven by my city. New Orleans is one of the most economically
segregated cities in the United States; extreme poverty and
extravagant wealth coexist. I have seen firsthand how volunteerism
can aid a community in need, so I consider finding more volunteers my
most important role. This gives me the greatest satisfaction because
I know that with each new volunteer, New Orleans community life
improves. Therefore, my greatest challenge and primary responsibility
is finding the most meaningful projects for my club. The best
projects are the ones that bring people together. Two of my favorite
projects have been hosting jean-cutting parties, where we cut jeans
into shapes for Sole Hope to make into shoes and volunteering at the
Lusher Elementary School. Through these projects, my club, and my
position as President, I have learned the power of small actions.
Many of the club members only volunteer once per month, but I can see
results from their actions every day.

My volunteering “career” began when I decided to volunteer at
Ochsner. I wanted to see the inner workings of a hospital before I
committed myself to the medical field. From that summer, I learned,
firstly, that the medical field was not for me, and, secondly, that I
love volunteering. I continued to volunteer at Ochsner, but I also
branched out. I volunteered with organizations such as the Tulane
CazLab and the Lusher Middle School Swim Team, and these experiences
have made me consider other areas of study such as biology and
diplomacy. Volunteerism has expanded my horizons and opened my future
to infinite possibilities–in this way, my activities are “forward
looking,” but they are also forward looking in that they will
have an effect on my community for years to come. In the decades to
come, my volunteer activity will remain visible because I have
fostered a culture of volunteerism in my school which will continue
as others become President after me. However, as I continue
volunteering, I would like to foster certain changes in the world. I
hope that my actions continue to influence others to volunteer and
that they will increase the sense of community in my area. I can
already see this change occuring as volunteers are meeting members of
the community and expanding their own horizons as they experiment
with environmental and educational projects. Volunteerism aids both
the volunteer and the community, tying people together in the best
way possible.

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