They buildOn: Student Mark Hall of Michigan “Addicted to Service”

“They buildOn” is a new blog feature profiling the special people who make buildOn such a diverse and unique organization. Each week we’ll interview one of our students, staff, donors, teachers or alumni. We’re starting our series today by spotlighting a student who attended Oak Park High School in Oak Park, Michigan.

buildOn helped Mark Hall regain interest in his studies and, more importantly, drop the bad habits and influences that took him down a dark path. In a moving testimonial, Mark writes that he became “addicted to service” after joining his school’s chapter. He was originally apathetic about the group and completed only the bare minimum of work, but eventually got involved in every buildOn project at his high school. And when he hit a rough patch in his life, his buildOn family didn’t give up on him. The buildOn “love monster” grabbed him and didn’t let go, he writes.

Here is an excerpt from his testimonial:

Little did I know how much this program would affect me… Soon I was trying to go to EVERY buildOn project available and more… Though I did hit a little road bump in my life from bad past decisions and ended up in jail. It was something I’m not proud of and where I disappointed a lot of people. To the point some of my own family no longer claim me, and I thought it would be the same with buildOn. Was I ever wrong. It seemed to be the exact opposite. They supported me throughout the whole ordeal and never once gave up on me.

buildOn has impacted my life in ways I could have never imagined. Given me friends and a second family, and most importantly memories, and experiences that will last a lifetime. Things I hope to one day pass on to my children and future generations – a positive message and outlook on life.

buildOn member since: 2009

Why did you join buildOn?

Two reasons. My friend got me to join because he thought it would be fun, and I needed 40 hours of community service to graduate from high school. It’s required at my high school to have 40 hours of service.

How has buildOn changed your life?

It’s changed a lot of my personality and how I view life. I used to be very violent and angry. I had a serious drug problem: marijuana. buildOn was there for me the whole time, supported me, talked to me when I needed it. They helped me a lot. When I was going through my whole court thing (for charges of drug possession last year), Dianne (Michigan Program Supervisor) was there every day… She supported me, and all of my buildOn friends were always there for me.

How has buildOn made a difference in your city?

I remember we did one project at Oak Park Community Center and an elderly woman was so surprised that kids were helping out. She thought all kids were delinquents and was just happy that there were kids that wanted to help. I think it changes people’s views about the community and the people that live there.

What are your favorite memories working with buildOn?

St. Patrick Senior Center. That’s one of my favorite places to go. Sometimes we play pool with the elderly men. They’re fun to be around and they make jokes. I never had a grandfather so it’s really fun to have that experience.

Complete this sentence: buildOn is… an organization that helped me through my life. They’re a great cause. They’re helping around not just in our community but around the world.

Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?

I hope to have graduated from college with at least my bachelor’s degree. Maybe a wife and one kid. And I still want to be a part of buildOn, even if it’s not as a coordinator. I’d want to be a designated driver because a lot of kids don’t have the opportunity to go to programs without transport. I want to help give transportation.