My Volunteer Story

So I thought I’d share a story with you that wasn’t Newsies or Broadway related. Heck, it’s hardly even NYC related except that it happened right here in NYC. 

I’ve worked with a lot of students over the past few months, and many of them really stood out to me. I will never forget them for the rest of my life.

Still, there’s one student who I think will always hold a special place in my heart. He wasn’t the first student to talk to me. That was Christian. He wasn’t even the first student to ask me for help. That was Jon. This student didn’t even come to Academic Support until the last few weeks of school, and when he finally did, it wasn’t to get help with his studies. But that’s what happened.

Jonathan first came to Academic Support in mid-May. He was one of those students who didn’t have a lot of confidence in his work. He got in trouble in class for messing around, and was definitely a talker. He could talk for days. I’d seen him in the halls a few times, but didn’t know him very well when he approached me.

“Ms. Carlsen, could you teach me how to solve this?” he asked, holding up a very beat up Rubik’s cube.

I nodded, and he asked if we could start right away. Slowly over the next week, I taught him the different steps to solve a Rubik’s cube, and I tested his patience. I gave him one little piece a day and sent him to practice it, making him promise to get his work done first. I told him I’d give him the next step when he could do it without my help.

Jonathan worked at it all week. There were times where I thought he was going to give up, but he didn’t. Unlike his school work, this had his attention. He knew what his goal was, and he was determined to get there. I hadn’t seen that sort of determination in any of our students all year.

By the end of the week, he knew all the steps, and though he still struggled with the last step, he was able to solve it a few times. Any time he did, he’d come strolling into Academic Support with a huge smile on his face, very proud of himself, and he’d hold it out to me. I always took it, studied it, and congratulated him.

I was building a relationship with Jonathan, hoping that we would eventually be able to just work on academics. With a week left of school, we still hadn’t talked about his studies, but suddenly that was okay.

Ms. Toney, his English teacher, came in to talk to me about Jonathan. Apparently, the Rubik’s cube lessons had improved his behavior and it was a topic of conversation in the teacher’s room. Jonathan wasn’t acting out in class anymore. He stayed focused on the lessons, and encouraged his classmates to be quiet and get their work done, all because he wanted to have a few precious moments at the end of every class to solve the Rubik’s cube.

There were times where I wondered if leaving a Rubik’s cube on my desk was the right thing to do. Some teachers questioned it, but I would let it sit there. I didn’t know why, but now I do. Jonathan will definitely be coming in next year, and we’re going to work on the Professor Rubik’s cube. It’s a 5x5x5 cube, and I’m sure Jonathan will be solving it by the end of the year.

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