With COVID-19 crippling Fall 2020 plans and in-person schooling, I did not have much luck with my internship hunt. I was grappling for opportunities with big name companies to jump-start my professional development, but received few calls back and was ghosted by countless interviewers. After expressing this disappointment to a friend, she referred me to DCTMI, striking a personal chord within me.
In my first year of high school, my mother forced me to volunteer at our local library. I despised shelving books and organizing CD disks for an hour every Wednesday, thinking it was a waste of time. I would always think, “ this better look good on my resume.” But as the months and eventually years passed, I returned each season with increasing enthusiasm. I befriended other volunteers and was sent Christmas cards from the staff. Every March there was a party hosted specifically to celebrate the volunteers with cake, free books, and bingo. And during every shift, folks young and old would politely ask me to help them find the picture book section or where large print text was.
A set of exchanges that I will never forget was with this young woman who frequented the library. During the period that I volunteered, my music taste was very uncommon but a very big part of my life. I loved Korean pop music, most specifically EXO and BTS. I would stay updated with the bands on social media, watch their live streams, and buy their albums. But I never met another person that shared this passion, especially considering how popular American pop and the Top 40 Hits were in my small town. When I saw the woman watching videos of the Korean bands on the library’s public computer, looking just as fascinated as I was, I approached her. We gushed over the music and the idols then we parted ways. This went on for months. We would cross pathways as I was shelving books and she would slip me sheets of paper scrawled with songs that she recommended to me. Eventually, she stopped coming to the library and I ran out of new tracks to listen to, but the bond that we had over this band was something special; so special that I did not even need to know her name.
When senior year rolled around, I was asked to speak at the high school’s National Honors Society’s induction on volunteerism because I had the most volunteer hours in my graduating class. As I addressed the audience that night, I stressed the importance and simple beauty of genuine community interaction and cross generational connection—volunteering is more than a resume section to check off. Meeting and developing relationships across interests and generations, I learned a lot about unique individuals in my area. I also learned a lot about my own values, one being my passion for volunteerism.
With DCTMI, their emphasis on civic leadership and community engagement greatly aligns with my personal beliefs and builds on my previous experiences. As a York, Pennsylvania native and DC transplant for college, I did not have many opportunities to become more involved in the local DC culture as a full-time student. But now with all classes moving online, I want to dedicate my energy to inspire and show others the beauty of volunteerism and community building, even if it is from a computer 80 miles away.