By Elyse Voyen, CCI Greenheart Staff    

The Greenheart Club  held its Fifth Annual National Essay Contest  for all CCI Greenheart exchange students and their high school classmates this year.  Students were asked:

“Service to a just cause rewards the worker with more real happiness and satisfaction than any other venture of life.” —Carrie Chapman CattReflect on and describe a specific positive volunteer experience you have had within the past year. How did this experience make you feel? How did it impact those you were serving? How do you intend to continue spreading happiness through service within our world?

The winning essay receives a $500 grant to do a  Greenheart Service Project at the student’s high school. We received an  array of inspirational essays from youth across the country. After careful consideration of all the essays, a winner was chosen.

This year’s winner is Anna D from Poland. Anna wrote an insightful, reflective essay about her experience volunteering with a local youth in a Kindergarten class and with differently-abled students at the Arizona State Fair. Her essay illustrated a deep commitment and understanding of volunteerism. Irina is also a member of the Greenheart Club and has volunteered 85 hours this academic year! We at Greenheart are excited to see what she does for her Greenheart Service Project and we would like to wish her a heartfelt congratulations! Read Anna’s essay below.

Volunteer Service Changes People

By Anna D.

Volunteering is defined by a person who performs a service willingly and without pay. My name is Anna, and I am an exchange student in year 2014/2015. The Greenheart Club gave me an amazing opportunity to experience that helping others can be very valuable and it is also very important to develop your own personality; you may help others and yourself. Volunteering has many faces: you might do something with environment, for instance: plant trees or clean up the areas which need to be cleaned; or help other people by tutoring or visiting public places such a hospital. Of course, those are not the only ways to helping others. I have had an opportunity to help students in Kindergarten and for one day I volunteered being a private helper for a disabled person at the Arizona State Fair Park. I am writing this essay because I would like to share my current experience with other people to show them that volunteering is incredibly important, because your own personality can be benefited and you earn a satisfaction that you can help somebody in need.


I will always keep in my mind that moment when my host mother, who is the kindergarten teacher, took me to her Kindergarten classroom for the first time. That day started like every other, but it would not be like the regular day. The children started coming into her classroom at 8 o’clock, then they ate breakfast. Nothing special somebody may say, but ‘the best’ part was still before me. After breakfast the teacher started teaching and I really could see how hard the teacher’s job is. They need to know not only their field of teaching but also how to deal with the kids, sometimes knowledge is not enough. I truly started appreciating them for their hard work, because that day I also had an opportunity to teach those kids math. Counting, adding, and subtracting to 20 is easy, isn’t it? And most people may say that it is nothing special to teach how to do it, but my experience showed me something different, for me it is one of the hardest jobs I can even imagine. I was sitting by the girl who could not count five objects properly and I was trying to explain to her how to do it, but I could not. It took us around 15 minutes, I failed, and I did not know why, and it took me a while to understand it: there is no universal way you may explain the material. Every student is different and the teacher’s job is find the way to student’s mind. They also have to have a lot of patience in themselves, and the good teacher has to keep working with them too, to give them a chance to improve on their life. It is sad that not a lot of people appreciate kindergarten teachers for what they do; they help students understand the most basic things, and they have to cover almost all fields like math, science, English, and arts. This basic knowledge allows children to take more advance levels of studies in their future education.

This experience changed and helped me better understand myself and others. Since that event I have been trying to be helpful to my host mother as much as I can, volunteering in her classroom by doing things such as making boxes and decorating them, or select some papers for her and her pupils. Somebody may say that it is nothing, but I believe combining everything together can make a real difference. Now, most of my volunteer hours have been made by this kind of work. I am very excited that I will have an opportunity to be in her classroom again during spring break. I will be able to meet all of those children again and see their improvements. Now, I can say about myself that I am kind of lucky person, because I was able to experience so many good things during only one day. That day I learned something very important: you have to try to make something by yourself to experience how hard this thing is.

My second experience was even more personal to me that the first one. It hit me like nothing before. Our neighbor took us to the Arizona State Fair Park; it was in October, 31st– Halloween. The Fair Park made the special deal for every mentally of physically disabled kid – they could get there for free that day, but they needed volunteers who could take care of those children. Immediately, when my neighbor asked me if I would like to go, I said yes. That day I took care of the boy with an intellectual disability. I spent with him whole day, talking and watching him, and that experience with him changed the way how I am thinking now. What made me sad is that, unfortunately, some people laugh at disabled people, instead of laughing with them. That day I learned a very important lesson in my life: that everybody, no matter what, is equal.

Those experiences made me feel stronger and I started appreciating small things which I had never noticed before. I would love to continue volunteering and share my experience with everybody who wants to listen to me. I have been influenced by volunteer work very strongly and I would like to show other people that it is amazing to share your work with others. I hope to have other opportunities, because I would love to try something different so I keep looking for another occasions. I feel like during my volunteer hours I am not only helping other people, but I also help myself: it has shaped my personality very much.