Hey there. Time seems to pass so quickly as I enter the final stretch of my internship. During the past few weeks, I completed my 10 hours of community service by volunteering for the Sante Fe Trail BOCES Extended School Year program (ESY). ESY is a local, summer program that aims to benefit children with mental, physical, or behavioral issues by involving them in various outdoor activities and providing them with peer mentorship. I first heard about this program through my school’s nurse when I was a sophomore, and I have been a volunteer for it ever since. As a volunteer, my main duty was to be a friend and supporter of the child who I got assigned with. Volunteers were meant to be mentors for the children, but above all, we were there to ensure that they had fun. The ESY program activities took place during 3 mornings per week for 4 weeks. Each morning consisted of a different group of kids. On Tuesdays, the Las Animas kids came. On Wednesdays, it was the La Junta Kids, and the Rocky Ford children came on Thursdays.
During the first week of the program, the children played outside and participated in activities like biking, baseball, lawn bowling, frisbee, kickball, and puzzles. The second week consisted of fishing at the La Junta City Park and making trail mix. The next week, we all swam at the Wipe-Out pool, and for the final week, we went bowling.
My biggest obstacle during this experience was getting the kids to break out of their shy shells and open up to me. Thankfully, as time went on, that came organically. The more I played with them and joked with them, the more they began to trust me. By the end of the program, I was more than just a volunteer. I was their friend. The reason I’ve helped out with this program for as long as I have is because it is amazing for me to see these children be happy. Everyday, they have to overcome their own obstacles just to live normal lives, but in the ESY program, they can forget about all of their hardships and just have fun.
To maintain the confidentiality of the kids who participate in this program, I took no photos of the children. Below are two photos taken during the fishing week of the program. The kids loved following the ducks around, and we eventually found a nest of geese eggs beside the pond.