Volunteering at Citizens School

In the midst of the current world we live in, with Harvey Weinstein to the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal to being a citizen of a country where Donald Trump is president… I still have hope.

Last week, I volunteered at a Citizen Schools’ event, where I mock interviewed several 8th graders to prepare them for job or high school interviews. They surprised me at how serious they were about their futures.

Citizen Schools is an American nonprofit organization that partners with middle schools across United States to expand the learning day for children in low-income communities. Their goal is to “equip young people with the skills, access and beliefs they need to thrive as students and succeed as adults in the modern economy.” If you ever watched the TV show Insecure, it’s the same thing that Issa’s organization does. And if you haven’t watched the show… watch it. It’s great.

The K-8 school we were at is the most inspirational school I’ve ever seen. There were quotes from writers and activists all over the walls to inspire and motivate the students. Hell, even I was motivated to do better and be better.

I interviewed three people (two girls and a boy) with another volunteer, Annie who is also from Taiwan. It made me so happy to hear their stories and who they are as people because that’s when you really start getting to know someone.

My favorite moments

The first girl’s idol is Rihanna because Rihanna’s story was so compelling – she came from an abusive family and rose from nothing to the megastar she is these days. At some point during the interview, the girl said, “Look. I was bullied a lot when I was in 4th and 5th grade. It was really hard, but I didn’t want to let them win. I was going to succeed in life and prove them wrong.” I wanted to give her a big hug because (1) she didn’t let bullying stop her, and (2) she wants to be a positive force and empower those around her. And she’s thinking about this at 13 years old.

The second girl’s dream is to be the first college graduate in her family. It was the first time I ever heard someone say that as their goal because where I’m from, it’s expected that you go to college and graduate.

The boy was adorable because you could tell he’s very analytic in nature. Any question we threw at him, it was somehow related to astrophysics. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “An astrophysicist.” “Who is your idol and why?” “Neil deGrasse Tyson because he is an astrophysicist.” “Why do you like Neil?” “Because he is an astrophysicist.” “Why else?” “Because he is an astrophysicist who makes astrophysics easier to understand.”

I left the event feeling good about the younger generation. There were many times during my professional career that I heard older people say, “Oh wow, your generation is much harder working than I thought. I’m delighted by this surprise.” I don’t ever want to become one of those people who stereotype a group of people because of how the media defines them.

I just watched this Ted Talk by Ann Shoket on “Why We Should Be More Millennial”:

This was a good event to remind me that people younger than me experience hardships as well, have drive and motivation, and want the world to be a positive place.

xo Juliet

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