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How One Student Influenced A Veteran College Counselor

by Meilin Obinata


Adults might tell you that volunteering is great “for” you. For this post, I wanted to tell the story of how one of my students influenced me with his volunteering. One of my students (who is about to enter college this fall!) volunteered every year of high school at a nearby food closet. I always knew him as someone with a clear sense of purpose, with a passion for community service and helping others. It is because of people like him that those patrons will have food for their children and can survive another day.


With the food closet, he became such a fixture that the non-profit relied upon him to eventually train other volunteers - including adults (!!!) and to provide interpretation services for Mandarin and Spanish speaking clients. And of course, he hauled, packed and sorted donated foods!!!


And, I know how much he loved this non-profit because it played a central role in his college application process: he wrote about how it influenced him, gave him a place to grow and even form a sense of community. So, (perhaps naively or arrogantly), I thought I knew everything I needed to know about his volunteering specifically. Plus, I thought that I knew enough about the issue of food insecurity in general.


Until this week. That’s when I happened to read about how food insecurity affects 1 out of 4 residents of Silicon Valley. I didn’t know the situation was so dire. And it made me immediately think of my student. I quickly jotted him a thank you note, because I genuinely appreciate what he did to address such an important issue.


But so what? Right? The world goes round and round, with or without your volunteering, right? WRONG!!!


My student influenced me by making me THINK. Because of his actions, his commitment, I am interpreting this news article - and the problem overall - in a different light. I am connecting him, a REAL PERSON, with what would otherwise be an ABSTRACT IDEA - food insecurity. Thanks to him, I will never see this situation the same.


So, that’s just one more idea for you, in case you are hesitating to volunteer. When YOU commit, you are taking a position on something important to you. In doing that, you never know how this will create a ripple effect in other people, i.e., INFLUENCE. When you stand up for what YOU believe, people actually notice.

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