In the dark, cramped basement of a Newark church that had been converted into a preschool, I had just finished reading to the students and handing each of them a brand new book to keep. Many of the children were overjoyed, but one little boy was particularly riveted by the book he had received. This boy, I discovered, had been shy and withdrawn, and had never had any interest in books before.
“I have been trying to get him to read all year,” his teacher remarked in wonder, and her eyes actually filled with tears. “Somehow you reached him, Elena.”
At that moment, I felt a new connection to my volunteerism. Since the eighth grade, I have been organizing book drives in my community to collect books for underprivileged schools throughout the area. Additionally, I personally visit schools in Newark and Paterson to read to the children, like I was doing that day in the church. I was not used to seeing the impact of volunteer work firsthand; I was not used to seeing how my project inspired other. But that day, I was the one inspired. I made a teacher cry, and I have never felt more honored.