I was recently asked by the place where I volunteer with kids to write an article for their newsletter. I happily obliged and then a few days later easily forgot. Their admin wrote me a few days after my initial deadline wondering where the heck my 300 words were. Oops! Would I be awful for deadline newspaper writing or what?? I scrambled home after my internship that day and threw together these words you see below. Although written in haste, I meant every word, and would have written more words that I meant if allowed more column space. But I don't mind...those days will come....

Fellow LAF volunteers and the infamous "Norman Rockwell Girl"

When I Googled “volunteerism in Hamilton” in October, 2006, I didn’t really know where I’d end up. One phone call led to another and soon I found myself in training for a program called LAF. I loved kids and I had spare time on my hands, so it seemed the perfect fit.

However, my anticipation began to turn to a bit of anxiety when I realized I hadn’t signed up for just a simple after school playtime with kids. These little souls needed more than just another recess in the day—they needed attention—they needed mentoring—they needed me. But would I be qualified enough? Would they like me or think I was too old or un-cool? Could I actually make a difference?

My first day volunteering happened to fall on Halloween and I was surrounded by fairy princesses, scary monsters, and various Disney characters. The mood was festive and some of my fears were soon laid to rest when their shy costumed faces began to smile back at mine. However, I knew it was important to gain their trust as we were just another new wave of strange volunteers sweeping into their lives—lives that were all too often familiar with inconsistency and unpredictability.

Over the last year I’ve had the honor to work with several children in the program. Many of whom I’ve worked with weekly on a one-on-one basis, and over time, built a connection and relationship with that I’ll never forget. No child has been alike, and each one presented a unique adventure along the way. Adventures that involved more than just listening to them read their class assignment, or telling them to please not take all 25 snack bars. The journey I got caught up in involved taking a real interest in who they were and hoping beyond all hope they succeed at the life they’ve been given despite the odds.

I’m still not technically qualified, the kids have told me many times that I’m pretty stinking old, and most days I feel fairly un-cool. But when you’ve witnessed a child grow both academically and emotionally, you can’t help but grow too—and that I am certain has made all the difference in the world.