[Noozhawk’s note: One in a series on Santa Barbara Partners in Education volunteers. This article is sponsored by Cox Communications, a Partners in Education President’s Council member.]
As a fourth-year college student in New Zealand, Megan Gallagher was given the opportunity to study in America for a year. Once she moved to Santa Barbara, she knew she wanted to become involved with the community through volunteering. After much research, Gallagher decided that volunteering through Santa Barbara Partners in Education was her best bet.
Having past experience with elementary school children, she was drawn to the option of providing after-school homework help at the Goleta clubhouse of the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County. In addition to placing community volunteers into activities at local schools, Partners in Education supports a number of key youth-serving organizations with volunteer support as well.
Gallagher believes that her choice to volunteer through Partners in Education has rewarded her in many ways.
“David (Lee), the volunteer coordinator at Partners in Education, was wonderful,” she said. “He put me in touch with the right Boys & Girls Club, orientating me with the organization and introducing me to the right people. David also checked up on me to make sure I was happy and things were going well. This was an experience I have not had with any other volunteer organization I have been with.”
Volunteering for the Boys & Girls Club fulfilled Gallagher’s desire to help with younger students. At times, however, it has its challenges.
“My first day was challenging due to getting oriented and learning the ropes, but I thoroughly enjoy my afternoons there,” she recalled.
Through her own experience, Gallagher has been able to recognize the value in volunteering to better the community.
“Volunteering is incredibly important on a broader level because it helps foster community growth and provides the volunteer with an opportunity to have new experiences and to achieve personal growth,” she said. “Education in particular needs extra support as it is so underfunded yet it is an incredibly instrumental process within our society.”
Gallagher is hopeful that the children with whom she works are as positively affected as she is by volunteer work.
“By helping to support an organization like the Boys & Girls Club to provide an invaluable service to students and their families, the health of education can be maintained and hopefully improved for these students,” she said. “In addition to a more societal influence of the Boys & Girls Club, I believe that volunteers also help to provide the kids with images of strong, successful role models. In the future, that might help push students in their personal endeavors.”
Gallagher says she wants to leave her students with a broader outlook on life and a positive attitude toward new things.
“I hope to help the kids on a short-term basis by helping them focus, and enjoy and learn from the homework requirements they are given each week,” she said. “I hope that being from a different country provides them with some exposure to different values, cultures and accents — which they seem to enjoy.
“I feel proud to have participated in such a wonderful organization as the Boys & Girls Club of Goleta, which has enabled me to support, in a small way, those who are making long-term and truly valuable changes in these great kids.”
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— Michaela Ford is a senior at Santa Barbara High School and a Santa Barbara Partners in Education intern through the Partners Job Readiness & Internship Program. Partners in Education programs are administered under the Santa Barbara County Education Office.