She is a 16-year-old junior whose love for volunteering quickly grew soon after her first experience. Knowing volunteer experience would help pave the path for her future, Devanshi started her first volunteer project summer of 2019. She doesn’t anticipate quitting anytime soon! While making a positive impact, Devanshi makes it easy for future colleges and employers to see what inspires and motivates her. Devanshi’s future stakeholders will also know the investment she’s made in gaining new skills. She’s received character strength endorsements from many nonprofits for her dedication, positive attitude, and communication skills. Additionally, Devanshi is working toward a 2021 President’s Volunteer Service Award by consolidating all school, club, and individual service hours on one verified transcript.
A volunteer tutoring experience to never forget
Devanshi’s first volunteer opportunity was at Gigi’s Playhouse — a Down Syndrome Achievement Center that aims to change others’ lives through free education and therapeutic-based and career development programs. Devanshi started as a math and literacy tutor, meeting with students 1:1 once a week. Pre-COVID, she met with her mentees face-to-face; however, she now meets with them via Teams. Devanshi has also been selected as a Tutoring Coordinator. She will manage tutor schedules and connect tutors to participants in the program.
Devanshi’s life is forever changed thanks to Gigi’s dedicated students and its all-inclusive community. Despite being nervous at first because she had no previous experience connecting with the Down syndrome community, she quickly realized it was amazing to talk and interact with them. “We all have the same likes and dislikes,” she remarked. “Just because some people are born differently and need more help, it doesn’t make them less human.”
After participating in several other volunteer projects, Devanshi says her memories at Gigi’s have been more fulfilling. The participants have a strong work ethic and really know how to enjoy themselves. She remarked, “Over the years, I’ve seen them grow. Some started off as not being able to pronounce words, and now they can read books. I can really see that I’m making a difference in the lives of people.”
Now that volunteering is virtual Devanshi would love to continue helping at Gigi’s Playhouse, even through college. She said, “It’s been a great experience and even if there weren’t any volunteer hours, I’d definitely go back; it’s an amazing opportunity!”
More than just a volunteer opportunity
The next volunteer opportunity Devanshi mentioned was her service hours in the US Kids 4 Water program as a Spoken English Program (SEP) tutor. The program is a community organization that focuses on raising awareness and supporting solutions for Water, Education and Environment issues. All volunteer projects are organized and implemented by kids.
The SEP connects volunteers proficient in English with students in underprivileged backgrounds in India. The goal is to not only teach them how to speak English, but how to communicate effectively.
Devanshi has been paired with students whose primary language is Hindi so she knew the volunteer opportunity would be fulfilling. It is a great opportunity to connect back to her cultural roots, which satisfies her passion for education.
Soon after getting involved, Devanshi started a fundraising initiative. It allows students in the SEP to obtain tablets to allow for better connection. Underprivileged students in developing countries don’t always have access to electronics. Therefore, she knew for them to be successful, they need to have reliable technology. The idea came after losing connection with one of her students during a tutoring session. She now leads the fundraising initiative by contacting various organizations for sponsorship and support of the program.
“It’s been a fulfilling opportunity,” she remarked. “Not only because I’m learning about fundraising and how to acquire money, but it has also helped with my communication skills.”
Service hours that spread joy to senior citizens
Lastly, Devanshi is also proud of the service hours completed in her school’s Tri-M Music Honor Society and Alive Inside. Alive Inside is a selective program available to those in the music honor society. Throughout the program, there have been many short-term volunteer projects: Projects such as working with senior citizens with dementia and incorporating music in the school as well as elementary and high schools in the district.
Working with senior citizens with dementia has been another amazing volunteer opportunity. In this case, Devanshi and her partner provided them with personalized playlists of music they enjoy and can listen to in their free time. “It really made them happy and gave them something to look forward to,” she said.
Aside from the experience as a whole, Devanshi noted she could connect with a woman from her cultural background. It was like interacting with students in the SEP. As they talked, many of the songs from the lady’s childhood are melodies she’s heard her parents play in her own house, which was a fun connection.
She remarked, “It was nice to see them enjoy the music. Seeing them take a step back in time and go through memories really made us feel happy that we were able to bring her joy.”
Lessons learned from meaningful volunteer experience
Not only have the volunteer projects been a learning experience in itself, but Devanshi also commented that they have taught her three main things about herself. The first being the importance of effective communication and to do that we must be clear and concise. Next, it is essential to have patience when working with students, especially those at lower levels. And lastly, it is vital to be reliable and responsible. Not only do her students rely on her to learn, but so do the organizations which she supports.
Volunteering has been a life-changing experience for Devanshi as she has found much happiness and satisfaction in helping others. She remarked, “It has shown me that making people happy makes myself happy, and all my hard work hasn’t gone to waste. It’s been amazing to see people rejoice and be happy for the things they’ve accomplished.”