EnFamilia, Inc., a non-profit organization in Homestead, Florida, hosts an annual “Art-in-Action” summer camp which I began attending in 2013. The six week summer camp provides low income students with an opportunity to work with art teachers in order to help them explore their creative capacities. My first summer at the camp and subsequent years working with EnFamilia gave me a drive to explore my own creative side. In late 2013, I went as far as purchasing a second-hand guitar and spending months pounding away chords into muscle memory. Although my fingers ached and I wouldn’t be able to demonstrate my talents until next year’s camp, the magic I experienced at Art-in-Action gave me a desire to break out of my shell and help others break out of theirs.
My involvement with EnFamilia grew when I was recruited into their group leader program – a collection of volunteers whose job is to coordinate Art-in-Action and revitalize our city of Homestead year-round. In total, there are 15 of us. Our collective experiences and knowledge in various art forms draws us closer together; our passion for volunteerism drives us to become more effective civil servants today than we were yesterday.
As a group leader, my job is to sustain the magic at Art-in-Action by mentoring adolescents who are in the same situation I was in – clueless about my passions. I have realized that instilling principles like self-confidence and ingenuity in my students’ minds has assisted them in surviving and thriving off of struggles that I continue to witness today: discrimination, poverty, and lack of emotional support. These challenges are rampant here because my city is the temporary home for thousands of seasonal migrant farm workers and their families. I have worked with children who have been to dozens of high schools in the period of only a few years, and as such, many were lacking in social and creative skills.
I have already witnessed the impact that my fellow group leaders and I have had. Year after year, we see returning campers who proclaim that Art-in-Action was all they looked forward to as the school year came to an end. There are countless cases where a camper has made massive improvements in attitude and social skills during their time with us. One such example was a camper who I worked closely with during the 2016 program. Due to her mild autism, she began as an admittedly challenging student to work with, always preferring one-on-one treatment instead of the standard group activities found at the camp. With continuous encouragement, we helped her gradually transition into those group activities. Besides effort by the teachers and group leaders, I was thrilled to see the younger campers accept her with open arms into their group (perhaps those children will become the next generation of group leaders!) Although the last day of camp was met with sadness and tears, I am overjoyed to have been able to play a small part in her becoming more outgoing and positive.
Overall, being active participants in community affairs such as food and toy drives has made EnFamilia an important resource for our town. I am thrilled to see more and more families turning to our volunteers for help and support, and I look forward to see what lies ahead for EnFamilia and for me in my future volunteer endeavors. I plan to continue my history of service both through my prospective university and through personal efforts. As an aspiring entrepreneur, I would have the potential to organize philanthropic projects that benefit disadvantaged groups beyond Homestead, Florida. Our rapidly globalizing world will make it easier to ultimately launch international projects that look after the welfare of people from all corners of the globe. An important part of doing all of this is motivating others along the way to do the same. Only by doing that can we collectively improve the lives of every disadvantaged group that is out there.