“My biggest thrill is to see a young women become empowered.”
I have volunteered all of my adult life. It gives me a chance to help and support others, use my experience and knowledge, meet new people and enrich my life through experiences and learning I otherwise might not encounter.
Describe the organization where you volunteer.
I currently am very involved with PEARLS for Teen Girls, an organization located in Milwaukee whose mission is to serve urban, at-risk middle and high school girls. The primary goal is to help girls who face the challenges of poverty every day to believe in themselves, envision personal power and confidence and positively direct the course of their own lives. This includes staying in school and avoiding pregnancy. One hundred percent of active Pearls Girls in 2012 graduated from high school.
What kind of help do you provide?
I am a College and Career Coach, which involves meeting one-on-one with the girls, either helping them navigate the college admissions process or working with them on career opportunities through other avenues, such as certification programs, technical training or apprenticeships. We work with the girls to help them stay motivated and on task through the application process, interviews, trips or whatever else is required of them.
I also serve on a small committee that is reviewing the process and procedures we use and looking for ways to improve our impact on these young women. For many of these girls just getting through a day can be difficult, so we strive to be the guides, mentors and cheerleaders they may not otherwise have in their lives.
Almost three years.
What surprised you the most about volunteering?
My biggest surprise, no matter what organization I have worked with, is the amazing number of dedicated and concerned folks who willingly give countless amounts of time and energy to help improve the lives of others. The assistance and services we as a community provide, could not exist without these tireless volunteers.
When you think about your paid jobs, how is volunteering different?
Often in paid jobs, many folks are there for the paycheck and little else. They may or may not have passion and interest around their work. I think most volunteers are helping because they are passionate, interested and concerned about what is happening in their respective organizations and communities. They want to be a part of something meaningful and positive and to have an impact.
What new things have you learned through this volunteer opportunity?
I have learned that young women, regardless of where they live or what their daily lives are like, still want to be respected, loved, successful, happy, feel pretty and fit into the world. Our girls have goals and dreams, they want to be recognized for who they are and they want to make a place for themselves in this world. These young women have taught me to never underestimate the power of perseverance and positive thinking.
Has it changed your view of the world in any way?
I feel much better informed about the challenges and issues facing today’s young, urban women and just how ominous they can be to overcome. I have gained tremendous respect for the girls I work with who are able to hold on to their long term goals with little support from those around them. I did not fully appreciate just how strong and courageous these girls have to be.
I have learned about many other amazing resources available in our city to assist those in need. I am so impressed by the corporations, not-for-profits and dedicated individuals who are working to make Milwaukee a better place.
Has volunteering helped you, has it had benefits for you?
I feel so blessed for the life I have and so much more aware of what others are facing. It helps to keep me grounded and focused on what is really important.
What are you proudest of accomplishing in your work as a volunteer?
When I can finally see that a girl who has been struggling begins to gain confidence and believe in herself. My biggest thrill is to see a young women become empowered.
If so, what would you tell them is the benefit they’d get?
I think everyone benefits from stepping out of their everyday lives and lending a hand to others in need.
How would you suggest someone begin if they want to volunteer?
Follow your heart. Look for an organization where the work they do is of interest to you and you are passionate about their mission.
To learn more about PEARLS For Teen Girls, go to www.pearlsforteengirls.com. To find additional volunteer opportunities in our community, go to www.volunteermilwaukee.org, a Service of the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee.