Monday, July 27, 2015

Volunteer Spotlight: Unicorns can change the world

This year at school I read a book about how to make big impacts in little ways. The book opened and closed with the same line, “talent is universal, but opportunity is not” and delved into the importance of bridging the gap between widespread talent, and often limited opportunity. The Yellow Bus Summer Camp gives opportunity to an incredible amount of untapped talent. They bridge the gap. Getting to experience that firsthand this summer gave me a brand new perspective on my own city and the value of education within it.  

Much of my time this summer was spent coordinating the pre and post testing that was used to measure literacy retention rates over the duration of the camp. I always joked that all the kids were going to hate me because I was the testing lady, but they were surprisingly good sports about it (a couple of our enthusiastic  5 and 6 year olds even asked to do it twice).  On one of the first days of camp I went into a classroom and asked for a 3rd grader to come do his test. He walked out with me very reluctantly, pouting, and almost in tears. We sat down at the testing room desks and I handed him the 3rd grade reading passage, assuming that he was just really not a big fan of reading as his pouting continued.  After I finished explaining the directions I asked him to begin and he just sort of sat there and stared at the paper until he finally muttered, “I can’t”.  As it turns out, he had never learned how to read, or was too nervous to read in front of me for fear of doing poorly. At the closing of camp I retested him. He was by no means the fastest reader in the classroom and he still struggled. But the words “I can’t” never came out of his mouth again. He took on each passage with a considerable amount of new confidence and asked questions along the way. His teachers helped change his attitude this summer, and that changed his outcome.

Another camp afternoon I was helping the younger ones make puppets with Mad Cap Puppets. As I was helping put their puppets together almost all of them wanted to explain to me what it was that their puppet was going to be, all while handing me pipe cleaners and feathers and googly eyes at a mile a minute. Although I don’t know exactly what a “dog-cat” mix would sound like, or what a “blob monster” would be able to do, they used their imaginations and the resources they had to create entirely new worlds and creatures. I think sometimes this kind of talent can get squelched because it isn’t academic, but this kind of talent is so unique and important. Creative people move the world. And I’m not saying creating a unicorn puppet that can “shoot lasers out of its eyes” is a world changing idea, but by giving these kids an outlet to think in an unconfined way, the YBSC is making inventive problem solvers and out of the box thinkers.


Everybody has “smarts”, but sometimes our smarts are in different things. I am truly lucky to have gotten to see these kids’ smarts, whatever they are, used, encouraged, and grown this summer inside and outside of the classroom. It is an experience that I know will always be a part of me, and one I will not soon forget. 

Written by Jill O'Bryan, Volunteer & FwP Summer Marketing Intern

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