“I could never talk,” said buildOn student Harona Osbourne. “I don’t usually talk to people. I don’t socialize. But through buildOn I’ve met so many friends…they’re the first friends I’ve had, really, since moving to America from Jamaica.”
Osbourne is one of hundreds of teens encouraged to confidently seize social opportunites through buildOn youth service. buildOn students are often introduced to like-minded individuals they wouldn’t have otherwise met through the afterschool programs. Working in their own urban environments on structured volunteer projects with their peers contributes to a sense of local community.
“The friends that you make while doing service you tend to talk to everyday at school,” Osbourne adds. “You just approach them when you see them in the hall. For a shy person like me that’s a big deal; that I can just be myself and have people come up to me, or feel like going up to people after we first meet.”
Before buildOn, Osbourne lived abroad with her parents and was a self-described introvert with few opportunities to reach out. “I did some service in Jamaica but it wasn’t the same,” she notes. “There was no group to help you find opportunities, you had to sort of find them yourself. It was very disorganized and not a lot got done.”
Osbourne was attracted to buildOn’s afterschool program at Stamford High immediately; aside from offering service hours to graduate, it provided the chance to do good that she had been looking for. She signed up after seeing a recruitment poster and couldn’t stop volunteering after completing a few youth service projects. “I’ve done a lot of service,” she comments. “Volunteering at soup kitchens and organizing walkathons. My program coordinator really pulled me out there, got me to socialize and be myself. It’s been tremendous.”
buildOn’s afterschool program is just one of the methods of outreach provided by the organization. Students like Osbourne are also offered chances to participate in international school builds, where they work side-by-side with villagers to construct schools in developing nations. These trips not only create strong bonds between the high school students that travel overseas together, but also between the students and the residents of remote communities in countries like Nepal, Nicaragua, and Malawi.[pullquote]buildOn pushes you…and you’d be amazed at how much you gain.[/pullquote]
Osbourne’s enthusiasm for the afterschool program has grown so much that she is now president of the program at Stamford High, a position she feels she has taken on with new-found charisma. In planning for the school year she’s interacted with a number of incoming freshmen and has been pleased to find them excited about doing youth service with buildOn. “buildOn gets you out in the community,” she says. “They push you, and get to meet so many wonderful people if you really go there and talk and socialize. You’d be amazed at how much you gain.”