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Becoming Catherine This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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This room smells musty, I thought, walking into the stuffy bedroom that would be my home for the next week. What should I expect? What were my feelings about giving up a week of my summer, and what would I miss back home?

I had just stepped out of the car and I was trying to loosen up. Looking at the other students, we realized how little we knew about each other. It was strange to see so many unfamiliar faces. Despite that, we soon realized that our differences enabled us to learn from each other. On the flip side, we did have two things in common: we would be staying together all week, and we would need to do all we could to make the most of this experience.

These words rang in my ears time and time again, like the constant buzz of a pesky fly: “Make the most of the time you spend here. It will be worth your while.” These comments got me thinking. Were they solely motivational or would this week truly change my outlook on life?

The Friendly House is a day camp for inner-city children from Worcester, Massachusetts. On the first day, we left at seven Monday morning. As we drove through the city, my understanding of the value of my work ­became apparent. The surrounding neigh­borhood couldn’t be ­described as “kid-friendly,” to say the least. The camp was in a building in the middle of the city.

Various thoughts flooded my mind. I was anxious as we entered the building and walked into the broken-down gymnasium. It was humid inside and did not look like an enviable place to hold a day camp. Broken windows, messy floors, and peeling paint made me uncertain about this “safe haven.”

After being introduced to the director of Gym & Swim, we were each ­assigned to a group of children. Those in my group were seven years old.

“This is Melissa. She is our new Young Neighbors In Action volunteer for the week,” the adult leader told the children. Their eyes were sleepy, and they said “hello” and went back to their breakfast of cereal and milk, which the camp provided.

Walking around that morning, I listened to the children’s stories. A button clipped to the shirt of one of the small girls caught my eye. It was like the name tag attached to my shirt, only it bore the name Catherine. I asked the girl who Catherine was. She looked at me wide-eyed and energized and then replied, “Do you know Catherine?” Her excitement helped me put two and two together. Catherine was the volunteer who had worked with these children before me, and she had given this girl her name tag as a token of remembrance. It was clearly very special to this charming girl, and it reminded me of how meaningful one’s attention and love can be in the eyes of a less fortunate person. For that reason, I worked to be “Catherine” for each of these children, and will continue throughout my life.

Looking back on my time with these children, I realize a lot about myself. The trip helped me see my purpose in life and strengthened my understanding. I now appreciate the opportunities I have and know the feeling of accomplishment that comes from helping others. The smiles on the children’s faces and my impact on ­others will motivate me to strive for academic success, in addition to ­furthering my outreach to those in need. I want to pursue a career that will not only help others but also help me to make every second count.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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This article has 2 comments. Post your own!

emi92 said...
Feb. 10, 2011 at 4:58 am:

surely u will fullfill your work .AND this seems to be realy good for us to search who we are? i read this becoz my name is CATHERINE.

 

 
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vejman said...
Oct. 18, 2009 at 9:27 am:
wow, amazing article
 
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