I have been a volunteer at the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus, Ohio since I was twelve where I am a Lead Intern Volunteer in the Special Programs Team. To date I have volunteered 1,040+ hours. My special service project is the creation of the “COSI Volunteer Hours Sponsorship Program”. I recruited sponsors who pledged a certain amount of money for each hour I volunteered. I pilot the program during COSI’s 2010 Camp-In season from January 2010 to May of 2010. During that period I volunteered over 150 hours and raised over $2,000. Last year, I ran the program during COSI’s 2011 Camp-In season from January 2011 to May 2011. I volunteered also about 150 hours and raised $1,300. My program began its third year with the start of COSI’s 2012 Camp-In season. Once again, I’m planning on volunteering 150 hours and hoping to increase the number of sponsors and funds raised. Another goal I have for this year is to iron its kinks so we can open the program to other volunteers.
I have always been interested in science and was a frequent COSI visitor when I was little. One of my favorite exhibits was “Adventure”. A few years after I started volunteering at COSI, the “Adventure” exhibit was closed because it was too expensive to run. I realized then the need for funds COSI was experiencing. Closing exhibits like “Adventure” meant that Central Ohio Children would have fewer opportunities to experience hands-on science. I remembered the fun times I had going through that exhibit and I did not want kids to miss out on that. My years at COSI had opened my mind to the huge influence that one can make in the life of others. From the young children eager for knowledge, to the Brownies and Girl Scouts that earn their badges during Camp-In season, to the families I help when answering their questions, I do touch people in many ways. All these beliefs and experiences made me wish for my volunteering efforts to have a bigger impact on COSI’s educational programs. That is why I developed the idea of a COSI Volunteer Hours Sponsorship Program; I was in 8th grade when I first had the idea. At that time the economy was not very good, so I decided to wait. Two years ago, even though the economy was not where we wanted it to be, I decided to move forward with the idea. With the guidance of my family, I decided to test the idea on my own. I piloted the program during COSI’s 2010 Camp-In season and as I had suspected, the program was a big success. Imagine how many more COSI programs could be offered to central Ohio children thanks to the funds raised through this program. I believe busy kids, educated kids, curious kids, are the seed of tomorrow’s society and with my Volunteer Hours Sponsorship Program I’m helping mold our future society; that is a huge inspiration for me.
Besides the intangible goal of motivating kids with science, my goal the past years has been to earn Ohio’s minimum wage of $7.50/hr. Thanks to my sponsors and my hard work, I surpassed this goal, earning a wage of $13.30/hr the first year and $8.73/hr the second year. At the end of the first year’s pilot, I reached out to COSI’s Development Department and told them about the program and its results. They were very impressed and pretty surprised when the checks started to arrive in the mail. Now, with the support of COSI’s Development Department and my supervisor, I’m working on implementing the program so all volunteers may be able to participate on it. With more volunteers participating in the program, the program could generate funds exponentially. I’m setting my personal goal for 2012 to $26.50/hr which corresponds to Ohio’s living wage for a family of four. I know is high, but why not reach for the sky? I believe science is a key ingredient to develop inquisitive minds. Through the funds I raise, I indirectly help forge an interest in science on children. Through my volunteer hours I’m able to directly influence the young children that visit COSI creating on them a unique love for science. How many kids are impacted by my program? Every single kid that comes to COSI is impacted by my program as my program provides some of the funds to run COSI’s science exhibits. Every kid that comes to COSI will benefit from my program for years to come, and their children and grand-children as they will have memories of the great times and things they learned when visiting COSI and they will want for their children to have similar memories—the impact of my program is endless. I believe that my leadership and the program I created for COSI have changed the meaning of volunteering at COSI. All of a sudden I have become one of COSI’s role model; an example for all volunteers to think outside the box, and pursue their ideas despite any obstacles. I have shed new light on the potential that there is when working together towards a common cause. This is more than what I had envisioned. Finally, I also want to point out, that in the fall of 2010 COSI reopened its “Adventure” exhibit. I want to believe that directly or indirectly, my volunteering efforts have contributed to this opening. Once the program is available to other volunteers, my ultimate goal is to take the program to a national level so other science museums may benefit from it.
What I have learned from this volunteer experience is the true meaning of perseverance; the satisfaction of knowing that when you pursue your ideals and are true to what you believe eventually you will succeed. I encountered a lot of obstacles while trying to implement my idea. As an 8th grader, I did not have the conviction to pursue my idea after my supervisor moved to another area and I didn’t felt comfortable approaching my new supervisor with the idea. As time went by and I matured, I realized that if you really want to do something, it is up to you to make it happen, so that was when I turned to my family to get the guidance I needed to keep evolving my idea. That is a powerful lesson that I will never forget. I also learned that there is something to be said about the “power of many”. The donations I received the first year were not that big. They ranged from 10¢/hr to $2/hr, but what made the biggest difference was the number of sponsors that were excited about my idea (28 sponsors); pennies plus pennies add up to dollars; dollars plus dollars add up to hundreds; hundreds plus hundreds add up to thousands, and that’s how I was able to raise thousands for COSI. This year, the donations continue to be of the same magnitude although this year besides friends and family, I am reaching out to local business. There is no doubt that the economy continues to be my biggest challenge. In terms of skills, I’m now better at writing professional letters and keeping things organized as I had to keep close track of all the donor’s pledges, and believe me, being organized is not my forte. What did I learn about the world? Well, I learned that a good cause doesn’t have geographic limits as I was pleasantly surprised when people as far as Texas donated money for the benefit of central Ohio children. I learned that the world is full of good people that can be motivated and inspired by one’s actions. Besides the pledge forms, I received quite a few letters of encouragement from my sponsors; letters where they expressed how my volunteering efforts have given them a sense of hope for the future of our world. These were very powerful messages that I was not expecting. It truly showed me how much one can influence the people around you, no matter their age, sex, or social background. I received letters from friends of my grandmother, from teachers and from strangers. I received letters from parent’s of my friends and parents of my sister’s friends. The only common pattern was that all these people cared and believed in the cause I was advocating. I learned that no matter how different we appear to be, good causes can unite us and can eliminate barriers as we work together for one common goal.