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Jose is a seven year old boy at the Monrovia Boys and Girls Club. He’s a recent immigrant from Mexico, and he always has a smile on his face no matter what. The thing is, that smile covers a lot of insecurity. His English is shaky, and I know he speaks Spanish at home. Jose is not all that different any other young child, but he also has to deal with displacement and acculturation. When we play Frisbee, or go swimming, I make sure to spend extra time with him, and especially to keep him involved in group activities where he can learn from other kids. That’s part of my role as a volunteer youth coordinate at the club, and I love it.
I have been at the club since sophomore year; I work with both boys and girls age seven and up. Many of the kids, like Jose, are the children of immigrants, so one of the first lessons we share is tha t boys and girls can play together at just about anything, from a rowdy game of Capture-the-Flag to painting and making art in the arts-and-crafts room. Another important lesson is that in order for games to be fun, they need to be played by the rules. I pride myself on being a strict but fair ref, who does not try to manage a game by favoring one side or another. Instead, I honor the integrity of the game, and help the children become both good winners and good losers.
There is also an academic component to my work. Too many of the children struggle with mathematics, a subject that is one of my strongest. I have a knack for explaining math concepts in both English and Spanish, coming up with humorous examples that make problems easier to understand. It is such a thrill when a student masters a new idea, because I know that the boy or girl will hold onto that knowledge for the next eighty or ninety years. Children are our future. No effort on their behalf is too little.
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