Rachel Wallace, Bethesda Elementary School

This is my second semester as a CSLP participant, and my second semester as a CSLP Program Leader. This fall I have been working at an elementary school two days a week, learning about all that it means to be a teacher and fully responsible for the care and education of 20+ children all day. Previously, I volunteered with Peer Health Exchange, a program I absolutely loved. Its mission was to give teens in disadvantaged areas the knowledge and skills they needed to make informed decisions about their health. Unfortunately, the program lost its funding in DC and had to pull out. Both of these experiences, however, have been worthwhile because they added immeasurable meaning to my life. They have allowed me to make a difference in others’ lives, but also in my own.

When I first came to AU, I decided to take it easy the first semester and not sign up for too many things right away. However, not even half way through the semester, I began to miss volunteering. I found somewhere to work and I haven’t taken a break from volunteering since. It brings such joy to my life when I work to serve others and can make a difference, even in a small way. It’s hard to explain how much fuller my life seems when I volunteer, how much more meaningful. Nothing ever gets me out of bed at an ungodly hour – except volunteering. For months, I gladly got up at 6am to travel an hour across the city to teach at a high school in a neighborhood that friends and family warned me never to venture into. Sure the metal detectors, the cops, the barbed wire were all intimidating, but when I taught the students something new, the look of understanding, the look of appreciation that I was taking the time to talk to them, made it worth it.

I know I come from a place of privilege, that I can choose to spend my time in this way. I am eternally grateful for that. And I am grateful to CSLP and the Center for Community Engagement and Service for providing me with a community of passionate, determined, social justice-warrior friends. I am only sad that as a senior, my participation in this program will soon end, but I can’t wait to see how far future students take it.

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