The volunteer opportunity that I worked through is with my Spanish professor Christina Hernandez, even though I am majoring in International Relations in SIS. My Spanish professor wanted me to get more practice with my Spanish oral skills somewhere outside of the classroom and I got exactly that. The site that I am primarily volunteering at is the Latin American Youth Center in Columbia Heights. The Latin American Youth Center serves as a home for local youth to come for tutoring, education, recreation, and just as a place to hang out. The Latin American Youth Center offers a great safe and open space for local youth to come and have fun and take advantage of tutoring and education opportunities all for free. The Latin American Youth Center does amazing work helping local youth stay off the streets and have a welcoming community to come to.
As a volunteer I have taken a large variety of roles at the Latin American Youth Center. I helped clean up, set up the area, tutor local kids and just help the kids have fun at the center. The volunteering at LAYC has truly been a great way for me to practice my Spanish with native speakers. It has offered such a different language experience, one so different from only speaking with my professor or other AU students. I have spoken with people from Mexico, Peru, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. It has been incredibly eye opening hearing these students’ stories, some who speak very little English and only been in the US for a few months. The experience has shattered my expectations, as I have met some truly unique and moving characters. While volunteering, I am able to share great moments with the students while simply just playing some ping-pong or pool with them. It is a great feeling to be able to hold a conversation in Spanish with them, something that I have always wanted to challenge myself with in the past.
My biggest surprise so far have definitely been the people I have met. As I mentioned before, I have met some amazing people so far. The lead director of the Teen Center at the LAYC is a woman named Fernanda from Monterrey, Mexico. Her energy, positivity and amicableness every day truly inspires me. She has an incredible passion for helping others and looking out for the local students as if they were her own kids. On top of Fernanda, the students have equally inspired me. It is so inspiring to me that the students can have such positivity and happiness while facing the challenges of living in a brand new country and learning a new language. They all have been so friendly and welcoming to me, even when my Spanish is not the best. This will only further my Spanish abilities and connections to the language.
Over all, my CSLP experience has been a great and educational one. The opportunity has been able to broaden my horizons while learning valuable Spanish communication skills. I will remember those I have met for a long time, while their stories and words have inspired me to appreciate what I have and look for a brighter future. My volunteering at CSLP has been an amazing experience and I hope to gain even more experience in the future.