This week is National Volunteer Week! Created in 1974 by President George H.W. Bush and currently sponsored by the Points of Light Foundation, National Volunteer Week serves to remind us of the “impact and power of volunteerism and service.” Points of Light’s motto is “We put people at the center of change.” During National Volunteer Week, they do this by awarding individuals and groups who have effected meaningful change through their volunteer efforts.
What exactly is meaningful change? As far as I can tell from the list of honorees, meaningful change is sweeping change. Among those honored are such towering historical figures as Susan B. Anthony, Cesar Chavez, and Frederick Douglas.
When we reflect on the past, I think it is a very good thing to remember the grand accomplishments of others; but we must be aware that someone’s work can only be deemed “grand” after the fact. While someone’s work isn’t complete, it’s impossible to tell how widespread or lasting its impact will be. However, this is not to say that service may only be deemed “meaningful” after it is complete. While we may get discouraged from time to time by an apparent lack of progress in our work, we can be confident that we are making meaningful changes – in those we serve and in ourselves.
At La Salle Academy, my service doesn’t seem to bring about much change, and any change that does occur certainly isn’t sweeping. This year, I have been running an after school homework club for freshman on academic probation. Day after day, and week after week, the same thing seems to happen: the students don’t want to be there, they forget what homework they have, try to say that they don’t have homework at all, and fail to realize that even if all their homework is done, they can always study for something. After first semester ended, I had a moment of joy when I found out all the students I had been helping after school, only four remained on academic probation. This joy was quickly crushed when I realized that I now had eleven more students, to make a total of sixteen freshman on academic probation. Given these results, I don’t think I’ve done much to improve the La Salle student body in general, but I know I’ve had an impact on particular students. Even the four students who haven’t managed to get their grades up from the beginning of the year are slowly changing for the better. Any change for the better is meaningful.
Jackie Liberty, 12-14, La Salle Academy, New York, NY.