Gearing up to do good in the community | The Triangle

Gearing up to do good in the community

The transformative impact of volunteering

Photograph courtesy of Daniel Guyton at The Triangle

In the world that we live in, it’s very easy to get caught up in the problems that are right in front of you. It’s understandable to become very self-centered in the life that you live because life is hard. But does that make it okay for human beings to be selfish? I think not.

Being bad can be easy sometimes, and being good can be so hard. But the real reward in being good doesn’t come for the reason you may think. Doing good upon others and expecting some sort of compensation is a mindset we all may fall into occasionally. However, doing good just for the benefit of the person you are helping is a reward in itself and has no bounds.

I work for a special program, Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, or in short GEAR UP, a grant-funded non-profit volunteer organization. At GEAR UP, college students work as coaches to tutor and mentor high school students to increase college access and success. The program has exposed me to experiences that have changed my life forever.

There are many things in this world that need change, and change will only come from the aid of someone who is willing to do what it takes. It’s important to support people everywhere who cannot support themselves, but even more important than the adults who need saving, it’s often children who have no chance of being saved.

Right here in our city of Philadelphia, you would be surprised at how many children lack the basic tools to something that could be thought of as a right.

As many people may know, the Philadelphia Public School District has a lot on their plate, and underfunding is one of the bigger problems. Yes, the school district is lacking in money and many people are waiting for the city to just put more money into it, but it’s not that easy.

Middle school is a set of weird years where kids don’t know who they are or who they are becoming, and sometimes kids can be cruel. High school however, is so much more important because this is when you enter young adulthood. This is the point where you determine who you want to be as an adult. It’s essential to assure these young adults to make the right choice, because it can potentially affect the rest of their lives.

People may have their qualms about the public school system. In the high school application process, there are special admission schools and magnet schools and people who rise out of neighborhood schools to attend Ivy League schools. Despite this, no one has a clear idea of what actually happens schools and classrooms. What happens to all the kinds that don’t have an exceptional end to their academic journey?

I was fortunate enough to attend a special admission college preparatory high school here in Philadelphia. My high school experience was very different than most people’s.

Through GEAR UP, I volunteer at West Philadelphia High School, and the students I encounter there are so unique from what I was used to. The entire environment of the school is much different.

These kids, like many others, are often not fortunate enough to have resources within their school to allow them to discover their true potential. They may lack the classes, the clubs or the staff available to support them in the best way possible. Or to put it simply, they just might be missing that one person who believes in them, someone who can capitalize on their potential.

It’s sad that in some of Philadelphia’s low income high schools, some of these kids’ futures are stripped of the light and left in the darkness. In many neighborhood high schools, which are also the schools most populated with low income students, students are dealing with real world problems that children shouldn’t have to deal with.

These kids bully each other, are exposed to physical violence, lack parental guidance, and may feel all alone with these and a slew of other problems. Some are supporting their household income outside of school, some may be abused, and some are just trying to survive and get their education dealing with everyone else.

If there is anything that I have learned in my year of working with GEAR UP, it’s that I am working with some of the strongest kids I have ever met. These kids go through so much and don’t even realize how powerful they are. Some of these kids are much smarter than I am and definitely scholarship-worthy, but might not in the time to try because they don’t believe in themselves. These kids are talented, creative and have the ability to think big but some choose not to, and some don’t even know that they can.

I am a Philadelphia native and originated from the public school system. I attended Bryant Elementary and later Central High School, a special admission, blue-ribbon school. The work I did in high school helped me achieve what I have today. Learn from your achievements and understand your privilege. Not everyone was able to attend Central like me, and I aspire to awaken the true potential in every student like me, for those who can’t see it themselves.

Every child in the Philadelphia public school district deserves to be successful. They have the potential, and I believe in every last one of them. This isn’t something to do just to gain volunteer credits or to gain good karma. If you truly believe in the welfare and the promise of every child, this is the place to be. It’s one thing to live your life to provide for yourself and your own, but to do something for those who may be less fortunate is a gift with an invaluable reward.

I chose to join this program to give back to my home and my city. You should make the choice to GEAR UP, and change someone’s life for the better.