Volunteer Profile: ‘Inspiring young minds to speak through poetry’
Lance Langdon volunteers at THINK Together’s Highland Teen Center in Orange. He’s been volunteering for a year and a half now. During his time there he has implemented a poetry and writing club.
Hobbies: Poetry writer, enjoys backpacking in the Sierras during summertime, and plays soccer in a intermural league at UCI.
Currently reading: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Q: How did you first get involved with THINK Together and begin volunteering?
Iwent to a conference in Los Angeles for the modern language association. I attended a panel discussion they had on service learning and literature. At that time I thought I was going to be studying literature in my Ph.D program and so that got me thinking about how I could integrate some kind of service learning in my writing courses that I was teaching at UCI. I was looking for a way to get my students engaged in seeing the practical facts of the policies they had to research for their writing research class. I talked to my supervisor about this service learning project and she referred me to someone in the education department and that person led me to THINK Together. That person mentioned UCI students have volunteered with THINK Together in the past and enjoyed it. I then contacted the Manager of Volunteers at the time, Malia, in the spring of 2011. Malia helped get my students familiar with the afterschool program. I too was getting a better understanding and so I decided I wanted to do something practical but not at the university level. I live in Orange so I looked at the closest sites and a community site was a mile from my home, which made perfect sense. I never knew it was there and I honestly didn’t know what to expect.
Q: Why did you choose to be a part of this particular organization?
The volunteer department sets up volunteers quickly and efficiently. That’s important for a teacher on a quarter system. Most of my students who volunteer are at school sites and are in a real teaching environment. They’ve had to do some substantial work with students in terms of supporting program leaders. The goal of my writing class is to get my students to think about what challenges under-served and under-privileged students face. They are also learning what challenges these students face when going through the whole school system and how programs like THINK Together are responding to these student’s needs.
Q: What is the best part of volunteering at THINK Together?
Teaching, period. Finding out what students are interested in and making a connection. Getting to know staff has been great too. I find that the afterschool setting allows you to learn more about student’s individual interests. You have more time with them; you don’t have to rush through a lesson plan. Staff and volunteers here really take a nurturing approach. You’re able to see the whole child in this kind of environment.
Q: What would you recommend for others who want to get more involved in the community through volunteer work?
People at THINK Together are very welcoming. There are always students that need something, simple things sometimes, like helping supervise soccer or arts and crafts time. I myself was unsure as to how I would be received but people were indeed very welcoming. My ideas were taken well and I can create my own activities and lessons when I’m there.
Q: Do you have a memorable moment you would like to share?
Yes, I do. Just yesterday a middle school student showed me two poems she had written one was for school and the other one was for her. The one she wrote for herself was great. She wrote about what she sees when she closes her eyes. The poem’s message was about how to use your imagination to keep it alive and that sometimes you have to open your eyes to reality. The fact that she felt it was important to show it to me meant a lot to me. She really wanted the feedback and recognition. It reminded me when I got recognized as a 3rd grader.