Op-Ed

Volunteers learn as much as the students

GONZALEZ
GONZALEZ

My involvement with Breakthrough Miami began with a commitment to volunteer my Saturdays to lead critical-thinking lesson plans and tutor middle school girls in math. After a year volunteering, I started a service club at my high school, Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart, to help recruit more volunteers, organize mentorship activities and raise money for supplies at Carrollton’s Breakthrough site.

During my last summer before college, I was a Teaching Fellow, where I had the opportunity to develop my own math curriculum, teach several classes and lead an elective class in cultural arts and crafts.

I joined because I was seeking an opportunity to help young girls like me. I wasn’t a great student in elementary school. I was indifferent about Bs and Cs in reading and language arts. When I realized that my grades wouldn’t cut it to get into my dream high school, I started to spend more time with my head in books and asking my parents for help. Asking for help isn’t the norm, and definitely not socially acceptable among angsty 11- and 12-year-olds. If I had had a role model like a Breakthrough teacher to show me that it was cool to learn, cool to be smart and cool to ask for help, I would have started believing in myself a lot sooner.

I wasn’t just helping the girls at Breakthrough by becoming a Teacher Fellow, I was doing something much more important — I was saying: “You can do that problem by yourself, give it another try.” Or, “You can stand before that audience and give a speech” and “You can be president of the United States.”

Breakthrough Miami, above all else, empowers young people. It exposes them to opportunities they might never have encountered. And without exposure to what’s possible, it’s impossible to envision something different from what you experience every day.

My experience with Breakthrough Miami taught me several things:

▪ Teaching is one of the most challenging and rewarding professions.

▪ Teachers are critical to a child’s intellectual and emotional development. It’s not enough to teach someone how to multiply. The best teachers inspire and lead.

▪ Everyone is capable of making a difference every day, no matter how small.

▪ Humility, which I learned more from the scholars at Breakthrough than they could have possibly learned from me. The girls I worked with continue to inspire me in their ability overcome incredible adversity, push their insecurities aside and face their fears head-on.

My experience has shaped my career choices. I am a sophomore in college pursuing a concentration in Education Policy and Social Innovation. I spent the past summer interning with Ashoka South Florida, a nonprofit organization that supports social entrepreneurs in solving complex social problems.

My dream is to live in a world where all young people have equal access to education, and I plan on doing whatever is in my power to make this dream a reality.

Gaby Gonzalez attends Brown University.

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To volunteer, or to learn more about Breakthrough’s nationally recognized summer Teaching Fellow internship for high school seniors and college students, go to www.breakthroughmiami.org

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