Meet HLL's Volunteer of the Month!
Every month, HLL will spotlight a volunteer who helps our students reach their potential. First up: Katherine Stewart, who has volunteered since 2012 and was kind enough to answer a few questions about herself and her experience with HLL.
What's your day job?
Research Associate, Custom Research at the Economist Intelligence Unit
Did you play lacrosse?
I have very little lacrosse experience. I played for the two months that we were required to play in PE class in 8th grade and know how to throw, catch, and field ground balls. I do not understand the women's game at all, but understand the men's game pretty well.
How did you first get involved with HLL?
I was speaking to Wyatt [Melzer, Truth Boys Program Director] about tutoring a girl who goes to the middle school that I went to and he asked if I would be willing to tutor one of his boys. Though I knew about HLL through Wyatt before and had been to a few HLL events, I did not see a role that I could play because I am unfamiliar with lacrosse. I did not understand at that point that lacrosse actually plays a background role; it is the glue that holds the program together, but the program does not focus on lacrosse. I had been searching for some sort of volunteer program to get involved in, so when Wyatt asked me to help in a non-lacrosse capacity, I jumped at the opportunity.
How have you volunteered with HLL?
I have volunteered with HLL in a variety of capacities. Currently, I am an individual tutor for one of the 8th grade boys and I lead HLL's new fundraising initiative for students who have been accepted to boarding school. I have also volunteered as a chaperon (and chief baked goods provider) for some of the weekend trips, a fundraising committee member and a math teacher for HLL's summer program.
What is it like to work with HLL?
Working with HLL has been the most inspiring and emotional experience I have had volunteering with an organization. I have been particularly surprised and impressed by the determination, dedication, and enthusiasm of the kids that I have worked closely with; the appreciation and respect that these kids have for lacrosse, their program directors, and everyone who is working to give them new opportunities through HLL. Recently one of the board members said to me that if he could, he would quit his job and work solely for HLL. I completely agree. It is also amazing how responsive the organization is to suggestions and ideas from volunteers. It is a program that is asking for people to give it their attention and innovation.
Tell me about one or some of the people you’ve met while volunteering.
Ryan is an 8th grader that I have tutored since last year. Ryan is the most willing and determined student I have ever met. He eagerly meets me every week for his math sessions and never shows less than an amazing attitude. Again and again I have witnessed Ryan, even when he is struggling with a concept or a certain type of project, keep trying and refusing to give up. Ryan is the person who drew me into working more extensively with HLL. I was inspired by my tutoring sessions with Ryan to come watch his team play lacrosse at some of their tournaments and to think of additional ways that I could help the program. It is because of Ryan that I have done everything from bringing my middle school math teacher to Harlem to teach summer math sessions to arranging guided tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to attending boarding school visits in rural Pennsylvania. And the amazing thing about HLL is that so many of the kids in the program are kids like Ryan- they are an awe inspiring group.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering?
Be prepared to be overwhelmed by the different experiences and lifestyles of these kids, by the amount that they love HLL and everyone involved, by the enthusiasm and awe they show for everything that is introduced, and by how invested you will become once you start knowing these kids personally; however, with all of this in mind, know that it will be a wonderful experience and one that you will definitely be glad you had. I have yet to have someone that I have asked to volunteer with HLL in some way that he or she would not be willing to volunteer again. And that says something.
If you are interested in volunteering with HLL, contact Louie Sawi (firstname.lastname@example.org).