buildOn & KEEN New York Work Together, Changing Lives of Volunteers & Special Needs Students

buildOn could not do its job without the support of its service agencies. In many cases, the same is true for the agencies.

For the past three years, buildOn has been working with Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (KEEN) New York, a program that matches New York’s special needs athletes with coaches who help them run, jump, swim, play and have fun. Last November, KEEN gave buildOn an award for being a reliable source of volunteers for its location in the Bronx.

“The success of my program is directly tied to the quality of my volunteers,” wrote KEEN New York’s Executive Director, Maggie Harrison, in an email. “I need volunteers who are fully engaged, fully dedicated and completely reliable. Our thriving program in the Bronx and our forthcoming program in Red Hook, Brooklyn absolutely would not exist without the hard work and dedication we’ve come to expect from the young men and women of buildOn.”

Glenda Hernandez, buildOn’s Senior Program Coordinator who developed the relationship with KEEN, said buildOn volunteers love working at KEEN. “They feel like they’re really making a difference by providing relief and assistance, and at the same time and learning about kids with special needs.”

buildOn alumnus Laura Rivera, a graduate of the Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics, enjoyed working with KEEN so much she volunteered at both the Manhattan and Bronx locations every Saturday. She became so involved and dedicated, KEEN made her a junior coach while she was 16. And because of her community service with KEEN, she was of the 27 percent of applicants accepted to Hamilton College this fall.

“The reason why I got accepted was pretty much my work at KEEN,” Rivera said. Taking care of the athletes at KEEN made her more responsible. She learned to take time management more seriously because she had to complete her homework on Friday so she could spend Saturdays working at KEEN. “That responsibility propelled me to take bigger steps in the classroom.”

Harrison said Rivera is one of many buildOn volunteers who have been positive, enthusiastic and ready and willing to help athletes have a great session. “They are selfless, they are kind, they are compassionate, and they are exactly the kind of people that our special needs population deserves. I simply cannot say enough about the caliber of people buildOn produces.”