Learning from Colin

April 30, 2010
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While any form of community service is a very gratifying experience, one of the most meaningful activities I have taken part in was during my junior year of high school when I was involved in the child-mentoring program through S.H.A.R.P. At first I was hesitant to sign up because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make it to the last couple sessions due to my lacrosse season starting; but I realized that this was an experience I did not want to pass up.

Once a week a handful of S.H.A.R.P members and I would take the bus to the Elementary School. We would spend about an hour and a half with the group of 3rd grade boys and girls. It was strange for me to walk through the halls of my old elementary school. Everything was much smaller, including the kids and teachers. As we walked to the room to meet the kids I remembered back to when I was a 3rd grader and had high school students visiting me. I looked up to them like they were the greatest people simply because they were tall and nice to me. With this thought in mind I realized that while spending an hour and a half playing with the kids wasn’t that big a deal to me, it was a huge deal to them. This sense of importance was very rewarding for me. For that hour and a half people were looking up to me; I was a role model.

We did various activities with the kids such as reading books, playing games like 7-UP or making creative projects. An aspect of the mentoring program I liked the most was that one or two people were assigned to a specific child for the whole program. Through this system I was able to really connect with my buddy, Colin. He was a blonde –haired, energetic little boy who, like most 3rd grade boys, enjoyed sports, dirt bikes, and star wars. Luckily, I have two older brothers so none of these activities were new to me. At first Colin was very shy and didn’t talk that much. Although it may sound surprising, this fact is what made the experience so rewarding. Colin was in the mentoring program precisely because he had some difficulties connecting with people and so I was there to try and help him. I couldn’t just expect Colin to take interest in the different activities; rather I had to give him something to be interested in. With this realization in mind I talked to Colin about his favorite Star Wars character and the sports he played and shows he watched. Suddenly Colin and I had a close relationship, which made me excited to go to Setauket School every week.

My time with Colin was so rewarding because it taught me something that I will use for the rest of my life and especially next year when I go to college. Through this community service experience I realized that you have to always be outgoing and really take an interest in the people you are around. If you expect everyone to only care about your interests, it is impossible to create new relationships since friendships are built on mutual respect for one another. While I never got to ask Colin how the mentoring program affected him, I hope it helped him to grow as much as it helped me.

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