Volunteer Day: Horace Mann Middle School [9/19/16] By Calvin Ha, General Member

Once every year, thousands of new and returning UCLA students volunteer their services for a day and venture out to locations throughout the Los Angeles area to enrich and contribute to local communities. For this particular Volunteer Day, I was assigned to Horace Mann Middle School as a task captain serving through Circle K.

When I signed up to be a task captain, I expected it to be like any other Volunteer Day from the past two years. However, instead of doing intensive manual labor like previous years (painting murals on walls, refurbishing classrooms, or pulling ten foot “weeds” out of the ground by the side of a freeway), I was doing something far more difficult, but also much more fun – I was working with middle school children.

For an hour, Brian Kan (my partner) and I helped ten UCLA students lead activities for a classroom filled with twenty-five kids. Half of the class was really rowdy and loved attention, so they kept moving around and shouting jokes at each other while the other half tended to stay shy and remained relatively quiet. As the games started up though, everyone began to chime in and connect with each other.

From playing charades and seeing the kids gleefully cheer as their team correctly guessed the words to singing and rap battling during the riff off (refer to Pitch Perfect), all the kids were having a great time. What really struck me, however, was the game “Hammer or Nail.” Hammer or Nail is a game where the kids are given two choices and they’re asked to describe what choice they most identify with. When given the choice between “question or answer,” some kids who hadn’t seemed interested in talking at all suddenly spoke up for this activity. One child said they identified with “question” since they always wanted to know and learn more. Another child identified with “answer” because they wanted to fix the problems that their family was going through. As new choices came and went throughout the game, it dawned on me that these children were all dealing with something.

After all the activities were concluded, my team circled up for a final wrap up and everyone revealed that they’d never had such an interesting experience before. Some of the volunteers were clearly touched by the past hour with the children and were sad when the hour came to an end. Personally, I know I won’t forget how amazing and humbling it was to work with these kids. I volunteered as a task captain hoping to give back to teach these kids something new, but never had I thought they’d teach me a thing or two as well.