Being a Part of Something Bigger than Myself

by Erika Keys, student volunteer group facilitator

When you go to university, it is so easy to get lost in the deadlines and assignments that you forget the larger picture and what matters.  In high school I was involved with my leadership program and sports teams, but at university I became scared to dedicate any time to commitments that were not academic.  Student Open Circles helped me step back and realize how great it felt to help someone else.  Every Monday, when I volunteer, my group and I have the opportunity to laugh, share stories, and reflect on what has been going on throughout the week.

I have been volunteering with the Learning and Fun program (LAF) for two years now, and it has been such an eye-opening experience. Volunteering with LAF lets me help at-risk youth with financial literacy and social skills. I have worked with one young boy for a year now, and to see the progress from our first session to today shows me how simple it is to make a difference. Not only do I get to help him, but he also helps me by reminding me to let loose and have fun. Every Monday I am excited to play in the playground, and playing Pokémon helps me forget about all the stress I have going on at school and in my personal life. Learning about his story has helped me put my problems into perspective, and after every Monday even though I am tired from playing tag, my mind is so open and ready to start learning again.

Last year the Open Circle student facilitators who led my volunteer group created a positive and open space for people to reflect and de-stress. Their happy and welcoming attitudes helped me come out of my shell and make friends within our group. I enjoyed my experience so much I became a facilitator this year myself. I continue to volunteer with LAF, and my group's passions, dedication, and the friendships we have formed are so motivating.

Student Open Circles has inspired me to be a leader again in my community and with others.  Marybeth and Jeff have equipped me with the skills to help empower youth and the people around me.  I am very grateful for their support and what they do for students and the Hamilton community as a whole.