A Final Farewell

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My final day of volunteering at the after-school program was fairly relaxed; the students were taking standardized tests so they did not have homework and we were instructed to cut back on the STEM activities and reading quizzes. We allowed the students to chose the days they did one reading quiz for the week and the STEM project was scheduled for Thursday which was the last day of testing.

As soon as I showed up, Opal begged me to help her work on her reading quiz for the week while some students began working on coloring pages or other arts and crafts. Opal was excited to tell me that she scored a 95% and 92% on the two reading quizzes she took the previous week when I was unable to volunteer and she wanted to prove to me how well she could perform on this test. While I helped her with a difficult word here and there, Opal was more or less self-sufficient for the multiple choice section of the test. Together, we worked on the written response for the quiz and Opal was able to produce five sentences. As the computer processed her response, we both anxiously stared at the screen wanting to know the results. Finally, the grade came through and we saw that Opal had scored 100%. She lept out of her chair with a squeal of delight and began telling everyone who would listen about her perfect score.

After the excitement had died down we sat in groups and worked on different arts and crafts projects such as making paper beads for bracelets and necklaces, fusible bead designs, or painting little jewelry boxes. It was a pretty calm day and there wasn’t very much to do. Before we knew it, it was time for the children to begin packing up to go home, and time for me to announce that today was my last day volunteering. I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal, I was only there one of five days a week and even then, I wasn’t there every single week due to school requirements such as exams.

This time, as I approached the front of the classroom, I didn’t feel nervous or shaky–I felt sad. I began to explain to the students that I would not be returning to volunteer anymore because this year of  school was almost over for me and I needed to take time to begin studying for finals and finishing up all of the last minute assignments teachers were handing out like candy.

To my surprise, the students were very upset to see me go; Opal asked if I would be returning next school year. Another student, Ashley, looked at me and wailed “YOU ARE RUINING MY LIFE IF YOU LEAVE US! Please don’t go!” And Joy told me she would miss me a lot because I was her favorite volunteer and things wouldn’t be the same without me there. While most students were expressing how upset they were (or at least pretending to for my sake) one young girl named Allison asked if we could take a group picture before I left, and I happily obliged, as did one other volunteer.

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The students were very eager to take a silly picture. About 5 of the “nice” pictures had at least one student making a funny face.

For the last time, I hollered goodbye to everyone as we left for the day and I closed another chapter in the book of my life.  As I walked to my car, I felt overcome with sadness, but at the same time, gratification. While my volunteer project was officially over, I knew that the impact I had on the students (and vice versa) would be one to last for quite a while. I knew I achieved what I had set out to do, and in that moment, I felt completely satisfied with myself and my work.

Have you finished your kindness challenge yet, or do you plan to continue working  towards your original goals? How far have you come on your “kindness goals?”

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