Service Learning Reflection–Volunteering at a Senior Center–by Katya O.
Last month, our International Middle School 6th graders created their own service learning projects as part of their unit on The Giver by Lois Lowry. They thought about their personal interests and abilities and then located needs within their community where they would enjoy volunteering. This project was an incredible opportunity to reinforce important learner profile attributes – including principled, caring, and reflective.
6th grader Katya O. wrote this reflection on her experience.
For this project, I volunteered at my grandma's senior center, Alta Torre. I volunteered during my February Break and it was an experience to remember.
From an early age, I always enjoyed spending time with my grandma and her friends, and because I see her very often, it became a hobby and a thing I would sometimes do in my free time. I love helping people and especially seniors because they are the ones with the most difficulties on a daily basis. And with that, I decided that helping seniors would be what I do for this project. I knew this would be perfect because doing this wouldn't make me feel like I'm sacrificing something, and it is the right thing to do for the community.
On the first day of service I chose to help the manager of the senior center in the office. The manager wanted to have a party for the International Women's Day and asked me to help with it. It was really exciting for me because I love to plan themed parties, and I even have a notebook with all my ideas. During the time we planned the party together, the manager and I grew to be friends. I think this friendship with her taught me that the age difference does not matter for friendship and should be ignored. After we finished planning, the manager decided to buy the decorations for the party and told me to type and create invitations for everybody and print them. I typed in all the information that was needed and printed the invitations. When she came back and saw my work she said that I did a good job. I went to eat lunch at my grandma's place and told her about everything that happened.
After my lunch with my grandma, my brother, Edward and I came to the lobby again. Edward told me that he wanted to help me with volunteering so I let him come with me. We saw that a lot of seniors were coming down to the lobby because it was time for an English class for foreign citizens. They all came in early so my brother and I decided to entertain them. Edward chose to introduce Snapchat filters to the seniors. We started off with people we knew and then when other seniors got interested we showed them application too. It was really funny to watch them see themselves in different filters, and thankfully they enjoyed doing it too. Then when the teacher came, I went to the office to check if the manager needed my help. She thanked me for my work and told me that I could go back to my grandma's apartment and should come to see her the next day.
Next day, I helped the manager with paperwork and ran few errands she wanted me to do. After lunch, she told me she didn't need my help and that I was done for a day, so I decided to call my brother and together we went to help the janitor. We helped him to clean up the lobby and a hallway on the 3rd floor. This experience taught me to never judge someone by a job, appearance, etc.. because you never know if someone is nice or kind if you never give them the chance to express themselves.
For the last day of my volunteering, I chose to just hang out with the seniors. The first thing my brother and I did was we put on a show in the lobby; I danced for the seniors and my brother told them jokes and stories that kept a smile on their faces. I enjoyed this part a lot because sometimes the seniors have nothing to do all day, and it felt great to entertain them. Then for the rest of the time, I went to listen to their stories when they were kids or their happiest memories. It was very interesting to learn about their past because it let me understand how life was back then, and it let them relive moments that they loved.
I loved this volunteering project because it gave me the opportunity to communicate and interact with people I least expected to spend time with and to learn valuable lessons that are very helpful in life. I was caring during my service learning assignment because the seniors really appreciated having someone to take care of them with empathy. I have shown empathy for everybody I have met with. The only time this project felt like a sacrifice for me was when I had to skip some time with my friends. But I knew that this volunteering was for a very good cause and I can always meet up with my friends after I'm done with the service learning.
*In 2020, the International School of the Peninsula (ISTP) formally changed its name to Silicon Valley International School (INTL) to better reflect its bilingual programs, location, and international values.