Fischer High School students devote significant time to community service as part of the requirement to perform 100 community service hours throughout high school. This requirement gives students a chance to explore a variety of volunteer opportunities and to help a wide range of people. This article offers a spotlight on a few Posnack School students’ volunteering experiences: sophomore Ryan C., junior Ella M., and senior Samantha W.
Ryan has spent his volunteer hours tutoring a Ukrainian student, Alex, over Zoom. Ryan and Alex were matched together through a program called ENGin, a nonprofit organization that pairs Ukrainian youth with English speakers for online conversation practice and cross-cultural connections. ENGin paired them together because of their shared enthusiasm for geography. Ryan and Alex meet over Zoom once a week and get prompts for topics to discuss. “They provide pretty philosophical questions. Trying to explain the meaning of life in a new language is not an easy task, but he’s done a great job with it,” Ryan told us. Ryan and Alex were featured on NBC Miami news in a piece that highlighted their friendship, and Ryan also spoke about this at his synagogue.
Things were going great for Alex until the war in Ukraine started. Alex and most of his family fled to Germany a few weeks after the war began. Ryan said, “it’s horrifying to see this friend that I’ve made over the past year, who’s told me every week how school’s been and how everything’s been going well, now tell me how everything has turned around for the worse. I could never imagine waking up in the middle of the night hearing rockets and bombs, and just a few weeks later, being displaced from my home and having to go to a country whose language I’ve never spoken before.”
Ryan has helped Alex navigate through these tough times and continue to learn English, even while not being able to go to school. Alex didn’t let the war stop him from learning. “In his culture, he was raised to be super hardworking. He’s super committed to doing well and getting to where he wants in life. It is so devastating to see things change for him so rapidly, and I can only hope for the best for him and for his family and for all of the people in his country.” Ryan has spent many hours teaching Alex English while at the same time making a friend. He has helped Alex greatly improve his English, and that is something that they will both never forget.
Senior Samantha W. has devoted her volunteer hours mostly to the arts. She worked at the Young at Art Museum as an assistant for their summer camp art classes, volunteered as a president of Art for the Heart, and also ran the National Art Honor Society and the National Junior Honor Society. The Honor Society recently worked on projects for Relay For Life, which is a nationwide cancer walk. The middle school made a Candyland-themed booth for the cancer walk, and the high school made luminary bags in honor of people who have passed away or have been affected by cancer. “I would say art makes a direct impact on the community because it’s something that all people can see and experience. I’ve seen families literally cry over how beautiful the luminary bags are for their family members.”
During her time with Art for the Heart, Samantha helped distribute over 100 cards for healthcare workers. “It’s just really nice sharing an activity that I love doing myself, with other kids. Seeing other kids also get to work on community service, and helping the younger kids make art is something I’ve always loved doing.” Samantha has been creating art since she was 2 years old, so being able to volunteer and help other kids with the activity that she loves doing is exciting for her. Samantha will never stop creating art, even after leaving Posnack School. “I’ll definitely always be a part of the art world and help in this way.” She not only loves art but she also loves helping people through the arts.
Junior Ella M. has spent her volunteering hours with Maccabi Tzair Fort Lauderdale, a Jewish youth movement that engages kids in activities that promote Jewish identity and leadership. Ella helps lead the tenth-grade group, called Madrichim in Training (MIT), who are training to become counselors at Maccabi. Her job is to plan events, make sure that everyone is informed of the plans, and ensure that everything stays in order. She plans the themes for the week that relate to Judaism. “Through Maccabi, we’re not only able to help children learn more about Judaism and their communities, but they’re also able to find themselves. I was able to find a community through Maccabi and shape my Jewish identity. Maccabi definitely changes you as a person,” she told us. Maccabi has helped so many people, including Ella, feel like a part of a Jewish community.
Ella also shared that Maccabi is an incredible experience, where people make forever friends and memories that they will never forget. “Being an MIT [counselor] especially is the best thing I could have ever done. Being with these kids and being able to teach them, and seeing how much they’ve changed from September to now, it’s crazy. I’ve seen them grow in Judaism and as people themselves, so it’s just been really awesome.” She has loved being able to help the kids in the community and help them navigate through their Judaism.
When she joined Maccabi in 9th grade, she didn’t expect that she would love it so much, and not only become a counselor there, but a leader of the counselors. Ella appreciates the skills and lessons that she is learning while volunteering and feels that they will be very useful throughout her life and have made her a better person. “I know that everything I do in Maccabi and all the skills I gain from it are helping me grow as a person. I’ve learned that I’m really good at working and dealing with people, so I definitely want to do something like that in the future.”
Ryan, Samantha and Ella engage in very different volunteering activities, but the three share the same passion and enthusiasm for their volunteering and excitement about helping others. All three have gained new skills from volunteering while also giving back to the community.