By Lori Draz and Nicholas Villalobos-Best
Welcome to Teen Scene. Each month, our young authors write, in their own voice, stories that will educate and inform fellow students and parents. If you are a teen who would like to write your story, contact The Journal. We’ll help you polish it up, so don’t worry – let’s just get to sharing.
This month’s author is Nicholas Villalobos-Best, a 17-year-old senior at Red Bank Regional High School. As the holidays draw near, many people show great generosity to help the many charities in our area. What if that same sense of volunteerism and charity could be something you practiced all year long? Nicholas is young man who comes from a family where doing service for others is a way of life. He has embraced volunteerism in his own life, carrying on the traditions he learned at home. It has also has taught him to better manage his time. The lessons of giving back as a family and as an individual have made his family closer. It is a life-path of great satisfaction we can all enjoy. Here is Nicholas’ story:
I believe we’re all meant to help one another, and I like to put my beliefs into action. I have been blessed to have been influenced by incredible people and I hope to be the same type of role model to others.
I grew up in the church, so friendly service has been a part of my character. Washing cars to fundraise, collecting supplies for the homeless, or shepherding over the church youth were common activities for me. I have forgotten about aiming for “volunteer hours” and instead focus on the great value of helping those around me prosper.
My family, in many different ways, has been a big influence on my ideas about helping others. My grandma Mimi will cook and clean for anyone who would let her. My dad (and pastor), Rafael, has always been the Number One handyman to whoever is in need. And my brother, Martyn, has been happy to drop whatever he was doing to help, and share laughs while he does. Some of my friends, too, share stories of organizing their own clothing, toy, or food drives, and creating school clubs that travel to help the elderly. All across the internet, I see people younger than me using critical thinking to start campaigns to help the environment by doing things like saving the water we waste in the shower.
When I think I can’t do anything great because I’m only a kid, I remember that someone very special to me said, “Anything you do with your honest, full effort will make a difference.” Because of these influences, my idea of making a difference is doing all I can, whenever I can, and being consistent in my attitude of service. Any difference we make, big or small, is a new way to inspire those around us.
Early this past year, I was inspired by YMCA Bayshore Family Success Center member Talesha McLawhorn. She helped my family with housing assistance after Superstorm Sandy, and collaborated with me to help plan my future. She pointed me to JoAnn Rountree, who welcomed me into the YMCA Teen Achievers program with open arms. They helped me with the college application process and even sponsored me to join the yearly YMCA college tour, where I visited my dream school, UNC at Chapel Hill. Long story short, I was so inspired by all the help and opportunities offered the YMCA, I knew all I could do was pay it forward. I started tutoring students and I was so happy to see the students raise their grades to passing! I was also given the great opportunity to be a camp counselor at YMCA Camp Zehnder. While the fourth and fifth grade campers drove me nearly insane when we started, it was rewarding to see their transition from careless kids to conscientious helpers. Nothing beats seeing kids pick up trash they would have normally walked right over. I can’t wait to see them pay it forward in their own environments. Even sharing a smile and a short conversation can brighten someone’s day, so why not try? Making a difference starts small and grows as we do. Getting involved can take you places you never thought you’d go.
Helping others has also had a big impact on me keeping on schedule. Personally, I have issues with time management. Everyone likes to sleep in and procrastinate. I can choose to sleep in on Saturday or tutor kids who need help. I could blame the kids because I didn’t have any time for homework, or I could wake up earlier to get it done. I could sleep until noon on a Sunday or get up earlier and donate blood. For me, waking up earlier means more time for more options without compromising personal time. There are always family friends who need help moving, or elderly neighbors who need help walking their dogs and shoveling their driveways. If we’re not ready to help them, who will be? And what better way to network than by helping people in need?
I have made wonderful connections through volunteering. It’s the best way to establish ourselves as community-oriented citizens, which is something many employers, specialized programs, and event organizers look for, because service-oriented people know how to sacrifice and apply effort in their daily lives. I’ve tried to set myself apart from my high school peers because I always keep service in mind – whether it’s helping my classmates study, sitting and talking with a lonely student, or staying after class to help set up a class workshop.
Little, seemingly unimportant acts like these start to show through in our lives over time, and before we know it, we’re traveling on mission trips to Peru or perhaps saving someone’s life with CPR. It seems obvious that helping others is a no-loss scenario. We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone. Keeping ourselves open to kindness will allow it to spread like wildfire, and kindness can change the world if we would let it.