Sonya’s Story: We Give Hope

Sonya Carson, a buildOn student at the Community Academy of Science and Health (CASH) in Boston, shared her personal story of service at the buildOn Boston Dinner in May 2017. As Sonya heads into her senior year of high school, she has already served more than 230 hours in her Boston community.

If I could show you one thing in my community, I would show you the park up the block from our school. It’s a park where little kids go. It’s brand new but it’s full of glass and pipes and needles and various other harmful things that shouldn’t be there. This is what our community goes through. There are many people addicted to drugs and who have health problems. This is what our community looks like.

But that’s not everything I would show you—I would also show you my high school—CASH—and my teachers and the buildOn staff. They have taught me how to clean up my community, and how we can fix it. I would show you how you have to start off small, but you get bigger eventually.


Above: CASH is located in the Dorchester neighborhood in Boston. (Photo by Tara Rice)

My favorite place to go with buildOn is the Boston Rescue Mission. Once, after serving food to the clients a man came up to me and kept saying, “Thank you for feeding me. Thank you for feeding me. Thank you for feeding me.”

I was like, “You’re welcome.” But he just kept on saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Then he asked, “Are you getting paid for this, huh? Or are you getting school credits for it?”

I said, “No, this is volunteer work. I just do this. My biggest reward is helping you.”

Later that day, he came up to me and opened up about his life. He told me how he started doing drugs at a young age and he couldn’t stop. He ended up in a situation where he lost his family and had to figure his life out. That’s how he ended up at Boston Rescue Mission.


Above: With more than 230 hours of service, Sonya has become a leader within the buildOn community at CASH. (Photo by Tara Rice)

That story really means a lot to me. You see, I know how it feels to be homeless. When I was seven years old, my mom was five months pregnant and we got evicted from our apartment in the Bronx. She was working two jobs at the time. She just wanted her kids to be safe—so my brother went to live with my aunt and I stayed with her. So I know what it’s like. It was really heart-warming to hear that man’s story. Everybody makes mistakes. He made mistakes by starting off his life with drugs. Sometimes people are in pain so that’s what they do. But in my eyes, the fact that he is coming to get help and that he’s finding himself now, is really big, and his story has really stayed with me because if he can do that, then I know that I too can do anything.

To me, service means healing. When buildOn students serve, we give people hope which is the key to healing—you need to believe that you can get better for it to happen. I know that service means hope to our community.

Below: Sonya has become an ambassador for buildOn at CASH. In March 2017, Sonya welcomed team members from GE to CASH for 36 Hours. (Photo by Tara Rice)