Recently, I started serving as a volunteer at 826DC—a nonprofit based in DC's Columbia Heights neighborhood dedicated to helping young people refine their creative and expository writing skills—where I’ve had the opportunity to work with students ranging from ages 6 to 18. The experience (unfortunately cut short this semester due to COVID-19) has made me think deeply about what it means to serve others in this capacity.
I truly believe meaningful service is more than just “helping others.” Those involved with meaningful service strive to support communities around them not because they—or we, as I consider myself a part of this group—want to feel good about themselves for helping the “less fortunate,” but because they genuinely understand the profound impact this help can have on such people for years to come. And through the support they offer, such people also work to learn about the communities they’re helping, offering resources to these groups while also seeking greater awareness of the varying conditions in which those around them are living.
At 826DC, I’ve been able to meet so many amazing people and hear even more amazing stories. I’ve met intellectually curious young writers. I’ve heard (and have even helped young students write about) stories of triumph amidst tragedy. I’ve been inspired to appreciate what I have after hearing countless stories of less fortunate individuals holding onto optimism and positivity amid an ocean of chaos, uncertainty, and disarray. I can’t wait to keep working with this wonderful organization—where I (if everything goes as planned) will intern in the summer—and continue to help young people tell their amazingly complex and extremely inspirational stories.