My name is Vivian Acosta, and I am a senior at Florida International University majoring in psychology. I have always been passionate about highlighting the importance of mental health and overall well-being. I volunteered at the Li’l Abner Foundation and this is how it went:
I volunteered in an organization called Li’l Abner Foundation, located in the City of Sweetwater. They are a non-profit institution that focuses on providing educational and recreational services for their community’s children. They offer several programs, including free after-school tutoring, Taekwondo, dance, and Archery. Their goal is to improve the community’s residents’ lives through accessible programs that enrich kids’ education and well-being.
The tutoring program is directed by a certified teacher with the assistance of volunteers from the FIU Honors College and Belen Jesuit Preparatory Highschool (The Li’l Abner Foundation). From Mondays to Thursdays, children from Sweetwater have the opportunity to receive free assistance with their studies and participate in recreational activities throughout the week. The Li’l Abner Foundation aims to improve the development of children through education and sports.
When I was little, I wanted to become a teacher when I grew up. I used to gather my stuffed animals, sit them on my bed, and “teach them” the ABCs and how to count. I would pretend my mirror was a board, and I used to write on it.
My interests shifted slightly over the years, and I am currently a psychology major; however, deep down, I still dream of teaching kids, helping them, and being someone who can impact their lives positively.
I’ve always been the kind of student who is afraid to ask questions, request clarification, and participate in class because when I was younger, I had negative experiences when doing so. That has made me self-conscious for the rest of my life. We underestimate the power of our words, especially how they affect the young ones. That’s why I felt so honored to work with them. I saw it as an opportunity to make their days a little easier, make them feel comfortable, and remind them that they can accomplish anything as long as they try.
I have always been passionate about helping and making a positive change. I chose to major in psychology because I feel like mental health is often overlooked, and it fills me with joy to contribute to a person’s well-being.
When I came across this volunteering opportunity, it woke up little Vivian’s dream career. This opportunity coincided with my interests, passion, and desire to give back, so I decided to contact this non-profit organization.
This volunteering opportunity merged my childhood dream career and one of my aspirations in life, which is helping others and causing a positive impact on them. It was satisfying to assist a group of children and see that my help was not in vain. They learned the material, they had fun, and they seemed comfortable with me. It was such a memorable experience that I am now considering working with kids in the future.
Teaching someone something that he or she will use in their day-to-day lives in the future is amazing! Being able to help a child learn something that he or she was struggling with is a significant accomplishment for the child, and for me!
WHERE AND WHAT
I assisted children with their homework and studying material Mondays through Thursdays from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM. I would get there a couple of minutes early to greet the kids as they walked in. Between three to ten kids would come in—it depended on the day. I helped out children from different schools, grades, backgrounds, and abilities.
As the students got to the classroom, we would review what the homework was and started to work on it. Some students needed clarification only, others would frequently get stuck, and a couple of them did not understand the topics that their homework covered. I would sit with those who needed help the most and taught them the material they were struggling with. Then, I would walk around and supervise everybody’s work. Before turning something in or putting the homework away, I would also check to see if it was correct. I felt responsible for those kids’ learning and grades. I was determined to show the kids that even though something seemed difficult, they could overcome it and that they were smart enough to get good grades.
Throughout the tutoring session, we would also talk about how their days went, so they could feel like their teacher cared for them. I always tried to keep them motivated by reminding them of how bright they are and letting them know that they can do anything they set their minds to!
I had the opportunity to volunteer at an organization that focuses on helping the community’s underserved: the Li’l Abner Foundation. I got to give back by helping children with their schoolwork. Even though this organization assists the City of Sweetwater community’s needs, the programs are not exclusively for them: this organization welcomes any child who would like assistance with their homework. Many of these kids’ parents don’t speak English, so it’s difficult for them to help their kids with their homework. Also, in a time where most of the work is online, accessing online platforms could be challenging for anyone who isn’t familiar with working with computers. A certified teacher, Ms. Hernandez, directs the afterschool tutoring program, and volunteers, like myself, assist her. Ms. Hernandez has tutored up to 23 students in a day, and it is difficult for her to tutor all of them by herself in a two-hour window. She is able to do it, but it would be better if there were more volunteers so each kid could get undivided attention. The organization could use more volunteers.
Kids’ early experiences in school set a foundation for the rest of their school years, so it is important for them to have a positive perspective towards education and develop healthy habits during the early years. Childhood is a crucial developmental stage in a human’s life. Whatever you teach a child, it will most likely stick with them for the rest of their lives. During childhood, we begin to make our own assumptions of the world, people, and how life works; therefore, I believe that kids should have a positive experience in school, a genuine relationship with their teachers, and they should learn more than just the basic curriculum. Qualities such as self-worth, values, and self-efficacy should also be instilled in them. As we turn into adults, these traits are easily destroyed, so we have to make sure they are ingrained in kids during childhood.
I was only there for a week, and I taught a girl who is in second grade how to add, I taught another girl how to divide, and I helped a boy learn the times table. They all came in with homework that they had no idea how to complete, and by the end of the week, they were able to complete it on their own! It was satisfying. One day, one of the girls started to pull out homework assignments that were due last semester, and I asked if she could still turn them in. To my surprise, she replied, “no, but I want you to teach me more, and I want us to read this story, and you can ask me questions!” at that moment, I knew I must have been doing something right.
The president of the organization, the coordinator, Ms. Hernandez, and the rest of the staff are incredibly kind and willing to help. They devote their time and energy to the programs offered at the Li’l Abner Foundation, and they are appreciative of their volunteers! I enjoyed volunteering with them.
Li’l Abner Foundation, http://www.lilabnerfoundation.com/.