By Marfrisa Geronimo Gipner, Development Committee, Endowment Fund Secretary 2010-11
As a young teen, the volunteers in our church youth group made a huge impact on me: my outlook, ambitions, sense of self. When I decided to join the League in 2006, it was primarily the pull to work with youth in a disadvantaged community. So, for the first three years of my membership, I faithfully “hung out” with a group of middle schoolers and spent most of my 30 minutes a week simply listening to them and just being there - as an adult who was not their parent or teacher - trying to provide a safe place for them to share what they normally would not, “so-and-so is bullying me, what should I do?” or “What is happening to my body? It’s changing in weird ways.”
At last night’s General Membership Meeting, the community advisor panel, organized and expertly moderated by our very own Community Member-at-Large, Nandini Gondhalekar, made my insides sing. Among the many topics that were covered was the difficult time students have transitioning from middle to high school. This made me think of the seven years of our East Palo Alto Charter School Character Development project, which was launched back to the community last year. I couldn’t help but imagine and hope that the time our League members spent with the sixth, seven and eighth graders had to have a lasting and positive impact on them as they moved onto to high school. Hope.
One of the main messages I took away from last night’s panel was this: “if you want to make the most impact, help those with no hope.” This is one of the best elements of our League: we find the “corners” of our community, like a middle school in East Palo Alto or the Rosali Rendu House (as was discussed by our community advisors last night), that can benefit from the power of our group of highly, trained volunteers. Then working closely with our community partner, develop and implement a program, which in the big picture of it all, offers hope -- training, a safe place, resources.