As we move into the holiday season, we’d like to pay tribute to some of the buildOn students who have truly proved the effectiveness of our programming. Luis Alonso is one of those students. He found the strength to endure very difficult personal trials by reaching out to his community through buildOn’s afterschool youth service program. Below, Luis tells the first part of his story in his own words.
My name is Luis Alonso and I spent the majority of my adolescence in the foster care system. I was placed in the system because of some very difficult family issues, and then my dad died before I reached high school. The odds were stacked against me. Growing up I had no convictions to follow, no ideal to pursue, no purpose in my life. I was a lost soul in the woods of darkness. Then my freshman year of high school, I found buildOn. That year I contributed over 150 hours of service to my community.
Then, my sophomore year, life became difficult. My relationship with my foster parent was deteriorating. She would refuse to give me money for transportation to and from community service events. She lied to me frequently. She sent me to a mental ward even though I had no mental illness, and she would never give me recognition for my accomplishments. Of course she would refuse to allow me to make a difference in the lives of other people.
My buildOn program coordinator was questioning why I no longer participated in service activities – for three straight months I did not attend a single project. But during that time, my perception of buildOn, community service, and myself changed drastically. Originally, I only participated in events to accumulate the hours I needed to graduate.
I did not fully understand the social impact I had on my community. I now realized that community service is something greater then I had ever imagined, and that buildOn’s goal of promoting volunteerism to children like me was nothing short of honorable, noble, and just. With this inspiration, my brother and I advocated to leave our foster home and be placed in a new one.
After moving to a new foster home, I was more committed to service than ever before. I became president of the buildOn program at my school and engaged in every service activity I could.
Check back next week for the second part of Luis Alonso’s story!