Student Spotlight: The Impact of Volunteer Work

December 16, 2014

West Liberty senior Valeria Perez

Valeria Perez
Senior, West Liberty High School

Being a volunteer is fascinating in many ways. You go out of your way to spend time helping people; you don’t always get acknowledged for it- it simply gives you a wonderful feeling.  You get to impact your community in many ways; in my case I impact a third grader’s life as a mentor for Dream Catchers. Dream Catchers is an organization that helps children from low income backgrounds achieve academic success through the aid of a tutor or mentor, and ultimately go to college. I get to meet up every Wednesday and be a part of Danahi’s life. We get to do homework together and play games. It may not be much, but it’s nice to help out and see that she enjoys my company as much as I enjoy hers.

It’s my senior year, and I noticed I didn’t do much after school. I wanted to become more involved in my school or community, so I talked to my advisor and I ended up helping out in the Children’s Festival, a community event in West Liberty. I really enjoyed helping out, so since then I've tried various types of volunteering. There weren’t many things going on within the community, so I talked to my advisor once again, and that was how I came across the program Dream Catchers. At first I wasn't so sure about it, considering the fact that students mentor during school hours and transportation would be an issue, since I don't have a car. Then I suggested meeting after school on Wednesdays, since we get out of school early those days and I could ask a friend for a ride. That’s how I became Danahi’s mentor.

Danahi is a 9 year old girl who also lives in West Liberty. She is very outgoing and energetic, and is a very happy child. She is like most typical 9 year olds: she likes to play games and color. Danahi especially enjoys playing Uno! She is a very outspoken, intelligent, and inquisitive. She personable and easygoing. At first I was a bit intimidated by the task of entertaining a young child, but Danahis’ happy nature made it easy to adjust to her needs.

My responsibility as a mentor is to guide her along the way. In a way it’s like being her older sister, so I definitely want to set a good example. Always arriving with a positive attitude shows Danahi the values of being optimistic and having overall good character. I help her develop good habits such as doing her homework, so in the future she can be responsible in whatever she does. If she's upset I will give her advice, support her, and eventually cheer her up. She knows she can count on me.

Something I’ve learned from mentoring is the value of time you spend with someone. If you are truly dedicated to something, you should always be able to make time for it. There’s no excuse for not helping someone who you have made commitment to. I may not mentor every single day, which is convenient for me because I get a big homework load, but it’s great that I have this opportunity. In some people’s eyes, it’s not a big deal being a mentor because anyone can become one, but it takes dedication and time to become a great one. I hope next year I can continue to be Danahi’s mentor despite the fact I will be attending college. I’m willing to make time in my busy schedule to spend time with Danahi and continue to be a part of her life.