I Am Making a Difference in My Community Essay

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“Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul motivated by love.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

Taking time to volunteer at the many nonprofit organizations, homeless shelters, advocacy centers, philanthropic fundraisers, local schools and child care facilities in the inner city is not always at the forefront of young people’s minds while navigating through their college experiences. But, with a little push from student organizations, local nonprofits and passionate individuals, volunteerism and community change can start to take a front seat and become not just an opportunity, but also a priority in the lives of young people.
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A few times a semester I would volunteer at the Prison Book Program, where I would read letters from incarcerated individuals from all over the country and find 2-3 books that match their interests and reading criteria. Opening each letter and hearing people’s stories reminded me of the harsh realities of our world today, and the difficulty many people face in preserving their human dignity and self-worth.

Whether guilty of crimes or innocent, our incarceration system is an issue that many activists rally around in terms of its success and promise in correcting and rehabilitating criminal behavior. So, to read letters and hear the voices of those who are living on the marginalized edges of our society, but who rarely have a voice in the issue that’s being nationally rallied around, is an uncommon circumstance that should be noted and have more attention and action drawn to. Their desire to educate themselves within the confines of a prison wall is real and heard by those of us who take time to spend their weekday evenings in the bottom of a church basement, sorting through donated books, and reading literary wish-lists of those who are incarcerated.

Another meaningful experience that sticks out to me is when I regularly volunteered at a children’s homeless shelter in Roxbury, Mass. for two years, and was reminded of the fact that the statistics we hear every day about homelessness are real people – not just numbers. Every child I played alongside,

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