Volunteering opportunities bring fulfillment, joy to students’ lives

Volunteering opportunities bring fulfillment, joy to students’ lives

Junior Sophia Bian
Junior Sophia Bian

A little girl, shy at first, stands with her head down and her arms behind her back. As the dance workshop begins, however, she brightens, laughing and skipping. Junior Sophia Bian, who walks around the room giving comments and praise to her students, pauses to smile at the girl enjoying her dance adventures.

Bian is the director of performing arts at BravaArte Foundation, an organization that aims to provide accessible arts education. As director, she recruits students from other school districts, coordinates performer and instructor schedules, and supervises dance lessons.

Bian began volunteering to make arts education more affordable. Music classes are often expensive, and Bian
recalls that her own parents had initially been reluctant about paying for flute lessons. So, when Charlotte Qian — who is also a news editor on The Oracle — mentioned BravaArte, a program she founded in December 2022, Bian asked for information about it.

“It sounded like a great opportunity to help spread the
arts, and I have been working in BravaArte since,” she said.

Through BravaArte’s free programs, including private music lessons, Bian hopes to ease the financial pressures of pursuing the arts and encourage creative discovery.

“Making the arts more accessible in general will get rid of
this barrier and help others discover the joy of art,” she said.

Since May, Bian has helped plan several events and classes, including an “Intro to Dance” workshop every Sunday. This workshop, aiming to give young children a broad introduction to dance, provides instruction in ballet, jazz, lyrical, character and other dance styles.

Bian’s BravaArte participation has improved her coordinating and planning skills.

“I’m more comfortable with management, and with the
officer team’s help, I have mustered up the courage to learn how to recruit, cold-call and do other tasks that I wouldn’t have been able to do without them,” she said.

Most recently, Bian and the BravaArte team hosted a
UNICEF Benefit Concert on Nov. 26 at the Mitchell Park
Community Center. With 11 performers — including Bian herself — they raised funds for UNICEF and hosted a meet-and-greet with student instructors and performers.

“It was a ton of planning and took up a lot of the officer team’s Thanksgiving break, but thinking of where the funds we raised are going to go makes me feel extremely happy,” Bian said.

Bian plans to continue working with BravaArte and will
teach a student privately next semester.

“It feels so rewarding to participate in community service that speaks to you,” she said. “For me, that’s spreading the love of music.”

Senior Lizzy Jackson
Senior Lizzy Jackson

When senior Lizzy Jackson first stepped onto Gunn’s campus, she wasn’t quite sure where she belonged.

“(It) sounds so existential, (but) I felt empty,” she said. “I wasn’t doing sports, I wasn’t doing any extracurricular
activities. I (thought), ‘What can I do to feel like I’ve done something?’”

She found her answer in a volunteering opportunities slide deck on Schoology. The slides advertised an opening at Dreamcatchers, an organization that allows Gunn students to help middle schoolers with homework. According to Jackson, getting to know the middle schoolers was even more fulfilling than teaching them.

“There’s so many community-based activities that you can do to really form a bond with the middle schoolers,” she said.

In her position, Jackson served as both academic help and confidante for her assigned students. Dreamcatchers also helped her get involved in other service opportunities.

“I cannot stress enough (how) Dreamcatchers changed
my high school experience,” she said. “It’s probably the thing that I am thankful for the most for doing in my high school experience.”

While Dreamcatchers became Jackson’s primary service activity in high school, it wasn’t her first. Jackson and her family travel to Utah for a week each year to volunteer at Best Friends Animal Society, the largest no kill shelter in the U.S.

“That was really kind of how I got into the routine — because my family had just been doing it,” she said. “So, I thought, ‘What can I do at home?’ because I really liked the feeling of volunteering. It’s so community-based because everybody wants to be there — there’s nothing forced, there’s no reward from it like with a job. So that’s why I continue to do it.”

Jackson also volunteers at the American Cancer Society
Discovery Shop in Los Altos, a charity-based thrift store.

“Everybody that’s going into the thrift stores is really nice,” she said. “I think I only got one customer that yelled at me. It’s a great place to start because there’s a lot of other high schoolers there.”

Although juggling multiple positions is difficult, Jackson’s sense of responsibility keeps her motivated.

“Having a feeling of people relying on you is probably
the thing that sticks with you after volunteering, and it’s a really valuable feeling to have,” she said. “You can get it from anything, but volunteering is where you’ll get it directly.”

For students who would like to get involved but aren’t sure where to start, Jackson encourages testing the waters with any opportunities they see.

“The least you can do is try one meeting, and if you don’t
like it, you don’t have to go again,” she said. “There’s no
shame in saying, ‘Sorry, this isn’t a good fit.’ That’s what’s great about volunteering.”

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About the Contributors
Michelle Koo, News Editor, Graphics Artist
Senior Michelle Koo is a news editor and graphic artist for The Oracle. Outside of school, she loves to play viola, learn taekwondo and watch Disney.
Jeffrey Kang, Forum Editor
Senior Jeffrey Kang is a forum editor for The Oracle. In his free time, he likes petting his cat, playing card games and reading.
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