My experience at the Service-Leadership Program in New Haven was powerful and two-fold. I was a participant and a junior counselor, which means I had the chance to delve into the dialogues, as well as to help with day-to-day logistics.
Besides visiting mosques, synagogues, and churches, which is always an enlightening experience, and touring Yale University, which was fabulous in every way, the experience that really hit home for me was volunteering to help Syrian refugees.
Almost a month and a half after I graduated high school, I walked into the English classroom at IRIS- a refugee resettlement agency. I found a seat and listened to the instructions. I noticed that everyone at the table was enthusiastically engaged in answering the questions being asked. They were all eager to work with my partner and me.
That was everyone except a young couple sitting next to me. So I turned around and introduced myself, in Arabic, and asked if they wanted to practice describing pictures. They both agreed. As they practiced with me, I noticed that they would leave out random parts of the sentences. I explained the basic format of a sentence and the woman asked me to stop for a moment so she could take out her notebook. She passed it to me to write notes on, and I saw a notebook full of every single word the instructor had ever said along with its definition.
It was then that she told me that she and her husband would study these words after every class, but were never confident enough to answer questions out loud. After just a few helpful tips, their sentence structure improved exponentially and they both enthusiastically volunteered to answer the instructor's questions. As I am taking Hebrew Language courses and studying for college entrance exams, I think that whenever I learn something new, I will remember that woman and her notebook.
"I plan to serve others by continuing to volunteer my time and skills wherever and whenever I can. I want to maintain helping others academically through
tutoring and generally by actively listening to those who feel like they have no
one to listen to them."
~ Nadia, Palestinian Christian