Most Service Hours: Charmaine from the Bronx

buildOn Senior Service Superlatives: Most Service Hours
Charmaine Henderson, Banana Kelly High School, New York City

buildOn Senior Service Superlatives showcase some of the standout seniors from the buildOn Class of 2015. With 92% of buildOn students graduating and going on to college with more than 150,000 hours of service contributed, we have a lot to celebrate this year!

Charmaine Henderson from Banana Kelly High School in the South Bronx leads the buildOn Class of 2015 with 1,000+ service hours – more than any of other student in buildOn’s six U.S. regions. Charmaine has devoted her high school years to service, volunteering locally doing everything from mentoring kids to working with disabled people, and serving internationally by building a school in Nicaragua. In this Q&A Charmaine reflects on her 1,000+ hours of service and how buildOn has impacted her life in high school and beyond:


How did you first get involved with buildOn?

I first heard about buildOn my freshman year at Banana Kelly High School. I really felt like it was important to me because I love to help people. Helping people is ingrained in who I am as a person – buildOn just felt like a natural transition. Not only do I get to give back to others, but I also gain a lot from service; it brings out the personal growth within me and I feed off of other people’s happiness which mirrors my optimistic personality.

What do you like most about serving with buildOn?

I love working with buildOn because I can actually see the progress within my own community. For example, my favorite service project is KEEN, (a buildOn service partner that provides one-to-one recreational opportunities for children and young adults with developmental and physical disabilities). I have been working with KEEN for the past three years. When I am there, I spend time with kids with autism. I can see firsthand how my presence has helped these kids over the past couple years. It’s amazing to see them develop and hone skills that I have been helping instill. These children are just like any other kids, but need a little more attention. They are just as smart and brave as the next person.

What is another favorite service project that you’ve done with buildOn?

My other favorite aspect to buildOn is Trek for Knowledge. I went to Nicaragua to build a school last June when I was a rising senior. My best memory of Trek was when I arrived and had a huge culture shock. I instantly became homesick and was having doubts about the duration of the trip – I was scared, it was very different from home. But, Jonathan, my Trek Coordinator, sat me down, in the rain might I add, and gave me incredible advice. He said, “It is ok to be afraid, just don’t put yourself down. The more challenges you face, the more you will grow as a person.”

From there on out, I had a stronger outlet and dove into Trek headfirst and immersed myself in the culture and experience. It was incredibly meaningful to stay with host families and to build this school alongside my Nicaraguan “family.” The one universal string between doing service in the U.S. versus service abroad is how we build relationships within the community. Its incredible to see how that practice is transferable through different cultures. When I arrived back in America, I felt like I became more open-minded towards other people’s cultures.


This graduation season, show your #GRADitude for buildOn by investing in future graduates like Charmaine.

DONATE NOW_____________________________

You hit 1,000 hours of community service recently and lead the country in buildOn service hours. How does that feel?

I feel like I’ve made a change for myself and others. Hitting 1,000 hours wasn’t my initial goal of joining buildOn. It is just more about who I am and showcases how much I really love giving back to my community. I barely even recognized how many hours I actually put in because this is who I am and buildOn helped me get there.

What do you think your high school years would have been like without buildOn? How has buildOn changed you?

If I didn’t have buildOn I feel like I may have been another statistic – dropping out of school, possibly getting into trouble. Without buildOn, I would still be that quiet girl. I never realized what impact I could have in a community. I now realize that instead of complaining about my community I have to do something to improve whatever needs to be done.

What are some of the biggest issues you see facing young people in the Bronx?

In the Bronx, I think one of the biggest problems I see is peer pressure. Some teens look up to the wrong people and get caught up in trouble without even realizing it before it’s too late.

Reflecting back on your four years of high school, what are you most proud of? How has buildOn helped you achieve this?

Being a senior feels amazing. Knowing that I’ve grown to become a mentor to someone else is a great achievement. I have matured into becoming a leader in my school and community before my own eyes. Never would I have expected to be a leader during my freshman year – I was very shy. buildOn helped me break through that barrier and become the person I am today through service.

What advice would you give to incoming freshman starting high school in the fall?

If I could give advice to incoming freshman it would be to JOIN BUILDON and to always have an open mind! buildOn gives you that push you need to be the person you are meant to become. You gain personal empowerment through service that you would not get anywhere else.

buildOn is also my family. It binds you with others who are likeminded that you wouldn’t meet otherwise. It teaches everyone involved to look at the world from different perspectives and with an open mind.

If you had to describe your four years with buildOn in one word, what would that one word be?


What are your plans after high school and beyond?

Next year I will be going to Buffalo State University. I am excited about college and to find out what my major will be through the liberal arts opportunity. I am thinking sociology as a major – but that could change.

How has buildOn helped you prepare for the future?

buildOn helped me prepare for college through the mentoring program we did with Deutsche Working with my mentors there really helped me understand what the real world may hold and prepared me for applying for school.


This graduation season, show your #GRADitude for buildOn by investing in future graduates like Charmaine.

DONATE NOW_____________________________