I originally began volunteering at HOLA almost ten years ago as a college student at UCLA. I helped a 13 year-old boy with his homework and once a week we would read a book together. He was inconsolably shy, extremely disinterested in homework (obviously!), and seemingly aloof. A few years ago, I came back to HOLA after finding some time in my schedule. It seemed like an eternity since I’d been there (even the building had changed). I was strolling down the hall when a painting caught my eye and I took a moment to appreciate the artistic work of some artist whom I didn’t know. Then I noticed the artist’s name: Javier Carillo, the same boy I had tutored almost a decade earlier. It seemed impossible that this reticent, introverted, basketball-obsessed kid had gone on to become an extremely prolific and successful contributor to the Los Angeles art world. To be honest, it floored me. I don’t really know how this testimony reflects anything about my volunteering work at HOLA because I surely don’t attribute Javier’s artistic accomplishments to my weekly homework counseling when he was 13! However, I do want to testify to how rewarding my volunteer time has been there. It is a unique opportunity to take part in community, to expose oneself to the diversity of our city, to contribute and commit to the education of some pretty special kids, and to also just be silly for a few hours a week. Specifically, I’m thankful for how unrestricted and welcoming HOLA is to its volunteers. You can be extremely invested there, or you can help out in a way that is best suited to a busy schedule. It’s a time in my week I set aside to dive back into the community and re-connect with people whom I may not otherwise have the chance to know. Javier and his art are a product of this environment and I’m just happy to be part of it.
– Kelvin Yu, SmartStart Tutor since 2000