I never knew what it meant to volunteer, to give away your time, and be alright with it. Although I’d like to think human beings are inherently good, we are also so selfish. This past January I became a tutor at the Boys and Girls Club of America. I started because I wanted something to do, something to pass the time. Three months later, I want to say volunteering has finally shaken me out of my own world; I realized I want to fight for something bigger than myself: equal education.
In eighteenth century America, the emergence of the idea of a self-made man was created by Benjamin Franklin. In his autobiography, he addresses how he overcame the pressure of genealogy. As the youngest son, he was unable to inherit from his family, but his life and his accomplishments mirror the possibility of an ordinary person defying the odds to become an extraordinary person. One of his lesser known inventions is his creation of libraries. It reiterates his idea – despite the social status one is born into, with an access to education, anyone can make something of oneself.
Education is different nowadays. I grew up in a privileged family, and I took for granted a lot of the opportunities I received. From a young age, I had tutors and educational programs for any subject I desired. I was able to take piano, ballet, and art classes, and I believed this was normal because I grew up in a community where many kids had the same extracurricular I had. In college, I realized other students did not grow up in similar circumstances, but many more students had. This problem is complex because higher education is attracted to students with amazing test scores and well-rounded individuals; these are opportunities low-income students find much more difficult to receive. The root of this cause lies in income inequality. At the Boys and Girls Club of America, I know many of the children come from low-income or working class families. These kids are intelligent, and they deserve everything to succeed. It upsets me because I know many of them will not be granted after school tutoring programs, SAT, ACT, Subject test classes to make them one step ahead of the game. Some of them will continue to pursue education, fighting their way out of inequality, but some of them will see their classmates rise ahead in grades and test scores and lose hope. At the location I worked with, there are girls here who accept themselves even when others call them “weird”. There are girls who will not be afraid of playing sports with boys and are not afraid to dominate conversations. There are boys who come from broken homes and find it difficult to open up and make friends. Their stories broke me and healed me. I cared about their futures and their aftermath; I wanted to see them succeed. I want to be able to offer them guidance and education. I know I don’t have the answers to change the ways of society, but I want to play the role I know I am capable to doing, a role where I can even out the playing field ever so slightly.