Youth Forward Scholarship Winter 2017 – Music: The Universal Language

Name: Nikki Swart
From: Red Hook, New York
Grade: 12
School: Red Hook Central High School
Votes: 0

I started volunteering in 8th grade, where I helped my band director with “Beginner Band Club”,
which taught kids who had no musical involvement to play an
instrument. It met once a week for an hour or so, and while I was
only thirteen when I started volunteering, I was trusted to be able
to conduct and keep kids on task when my band director was working
with an individual. It was immensely satisfying to be given that
level of trust and responsibility, and it was rewarding to be able to
teach kids something valuable and lasting like music.

From there I began volunteering through my church. I run the AV-system at
weekly church services, but I also volunteer time in the nursery,
where I play with younger kids so their parents can enjoy the
service, and I volunteer at the Vacation Bible School summer program
our church runs. Vacation Bible School (or VBS) is a day camp that
runs for a week. In it I’m in charge of the music and dance, and
had to teach all the kids a number of songs and dances, so that the
week could end with a performance for their parents. It was certainly
challenging, since the kids’ ages ranged from 4 to 12, and
different age groups required different approaches to stay on task.
By the end of the week, amazingly, everyone was excited about the
music and it was awesome to see all the kids enjoying the dances and
looking forward to my class and the performance.

My most powerful volunteer experience was when my church took a two-week
mission trip to Central Europe, during which the youth stayed with
missionaries living in Osijek, Croatia and ran an English camp based
off the VBS materials from our church. On the first day I was
incredibly nervous, worrying about things I’ve never had to worry
about before: not being able to speak Croatian and possibly not being
able to communicate at all, whether the kids would even want to be
there, and how I would be received as an American. Regardless, I went
in and lowered all of my inhibitions, knowing I was there to serve,
hoping that I would be able to at least communicate with the kids if
I opened up. In the beginning, the language seemed to be a huge
barrier, but by the end I had bonded with almost every kid at the
camp. By humbling myself in the mindset of volunteerism I was able to
use music, dance, and interactions to connect with another culture.

By volunteering I have found my love of working with people, and
especially children. In the future I want to return to Osijek where I
volunteered and spent time with the local kids, but I also want to
volunteer with kids here in my community. By putting myself in a
position of service and volunteering I’m able to connect with
people and spread a love of music and tolerance for each other.


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