Editor’s Note: We gain experience as we progress in our careers. But does our capacity to give back go up with our paychecks?
We asked an ambitious, college-bound high school student for her opinion on the matter. This is what she said.
Ever since I was young, I had a strong desire to make a difference and contribute to a better tomorrow. Much of my motivation was witnessing how hard my mom worked day after day to ensure my well-being, and the example of a strong woman she gave me. I figured that she worked too hard for me to just be ordinary, so in everything I did, I strived to be like her.
I grew up in Stanton, a small California city bordering Anaheim. While my mom was working, I would stay after school at the YMCA. She needed the help, and I benefited from seeing other inspiring people at the YMCA who were role models in their own right, providing vital services like childcare, tutoring and babysitting for nominal fees.
Often, these services were provided to families who otherwise could not afford them. These families simply wanted the peace of mind that comes with knowing their children were safe while the parents were working.
By the time I was in high school, I was involved with more organizations and starting to give back in my own way. Though still young—I’m a junior in high school now—I felt I had a civic responsibility to share my wisdom, accumulated thus far, with someone younger than I, who was in the position that I was once in.
I decided to start close to home and began to tutor a student at my former elementary school. Today, I enjoy the relationship that I share with Mauricio, a “little” whom I was paired with when I became a part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program of Orange County, California. Every Tuesday afternoon, Mauricio and I work on his homework or read a book. Then, we either play games, talk about life or participate in an organized activity. I love how he is able to share even the most minuscule worries with me, such as not being the first in line at the handball court.
“This cycle of seeking and giving guidance is an indication that, as a living, functioning member of society, it is impossible to go about life without the support and input from other people.”
Through my efforts, I hope to allow Mauricio to see his own strengths that, at times, can become clouded by his circumstances. My goal is for my “little” to reciprocate my actions and someday become a mentor himself.
As a 16-year-old preparing for the next chapter of her life, I also seek guidance. I have long hoped to attend the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and my mom and I are relying on my guidance counselor, several teachers and other family members to help compile my application materials.
To me, this cycle of seeking and giving guidance is an indication that, as a living, functioning member of society, it is impossible to go about life without the support and input from other people. Imagine for a moment I do attend UCLA. Imagine I graduate at the top of my class. Even then, I will just be starting out. I will have no choice but to continue to rely on people around me—some of whom I don’t know, but will nonetheless need to rely upon for acts of goodwill and “giving me a chance.”
As people, we must get help and give help at all ages. I am young, but I can see that pattern developing. I am happy to do my part.
Read more about Sofia here in a recent Vanguard article: Learn locally, think globally: A teen’s mission to make a difference