As teenagers, we are constantly making decisions that shape the rest of our lives. By contributing to our communities, we are inﬂuencing ourselves in a positive way that often follows us throughout our adult lives. I’ve always felt that volunteering and community service are something that we, as citizens, are internally obligated to do. When we ﬁnd a cause we care about, a cause we connect with, we are able to dedicate time from our lives to this cause, and make a big difference to others.
I have spent the past four years volunteering at a club organized by my high school known as “Jammin’ Jayhawks”. Every Sunday, I would go out to a local ﬁeld at my district’s elementary school and play a variety of sports with children with special needs. The disabilities of these children varied from minor issues, such as speech impairment, to much more severe problems. During my Sophomore year, I started coaching a young boy who has autism. I remember him always being happy and enthusiastic every single practice we had together. I taught him how to dribble a basketball, and how to take turns passing around a soccer ball.
When I ﬁrst started working with him, he was shy, and almost nonverbal. He had trouble making eye contact with people when they talked to him, besides his parents. As time went on, I had made progress helping him get out of his shell. At ﬁrst, I had him complete small tasks. I had him pass the soccer ball with other kids, and take turns shooting baskets with them. I would encourage him to go up to other kids and ask them to do the activity with him, and to take turns using their basketball to shoot baskets. After about two months of practices, he seemed like a completely different child. He started talking to other kids and even made some close friends. After practice one day, his parents came up to me to thank me. They explained to me how my work with him had greatly improved his conversational skills, not just at Jammin’ Jayhawks, but also at home and at school. He now participates much more in school activities than he ever did before. They told me that he and a few other boys from the program started making playdates with each other. It felt so rewarding to have such an impact on his life, and to see how grateful his parents were for the time we spent together. I ended up working with him for two years. He had changed so much since we ﬁrst started. He is now one of the most talkative and energetic kids there, and has no problem talking to people.
This experience has given me so much and has made me aware that the greatest gift you can give someone is your time. Giving of my time has never been an obligatory duty, but it is something that I genuinely love and enjoy. I want to continue to give my time and participate in community and volunteer work throughout college and afterwards. I also know that I have a passion for working with children and kids with disabilities. I will never forget coaching the young boy, and the impact and the gift he has given me as well.