Youth Forward Scholarship Winter 2018 – The Hidden Lessons behind Volunteer Work

Name: Eli Engledow
From: Asotin, WA
Grade: 11
School: Asotin High School
Votes: 0

Volunteering has
taught me more than anything I’ve ever done. I was an athlete
representative for Inland Empire Swimming. I was nominated and voted
on by 20 coaches from our area, and was eventually selected to
represent nearly 1,500 swimmers ranging from 4 to 18 years old in
Northern Idaho, Eastern Washington, and Northeastern Oregon. Over a
period of 2 years, I spent over 500 hours each year and traveled
over 10,000 miles to different US cities to attend business meetings
and leadership conferences with other selected athletes.

From these
experiences, I got more than just a chance to represent the voices of
1,500 others to try to better the sport of swimming. I got to meet
new people with completely different backgrounds and stories. A group
of athletes, while at a conference in Atlanta, volunteered for a few
hours at a food bank in one of the worst zip codes in Atlanta city
limits. It was an amazing experience to encounter and visually see
and meet people from subcultures that I’ve never seen before. While
at a different conference in Houston, we taught swim lessons with a
couple hundred 1st and 2nd graders. It was so cool to help so many
little kids who didn’t know how to swim or were afraid of the water.
It truly saves lives!

When I get to tell
people about this volunteer experience, the part that stands out is
that I’m representing the voices of 1,500 other kids. In reality,
that’s at the bottom of the list of things I got out of the
experience. Being able to travel around and see different places,
meet new people, and help people in need provided me with far more
knowledge than anything else. It created diversity in my mind and
made me more considerate when seeing people I’ve never met. The
opportunities I’ve gotten through volunteering to diversify my
mindset is something I will never take for granted.

And that’s the
beauty of volunteer work. You never get just one thing out of
volunteering. You always learn. You always gain knowledge and
experience and more often than not, you get to understand yourself,
as well as the people around you better. Nothing compares to
volunteer work when it comes to learning how people think, and how
you can use that to help your community around you. In sum, I thought
volunteer work would help me be a better leader.. I had no idea that
it would make me a better person.

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