By Olivia Chiu
Less than a month ago on September 23, South Pasadena police officer Chris Perez convinced a young girl not to end her life. The 12-year old had fled from a group home in Los Angeles due to severe emotional conditions. When I read the headline, I was initially thrilled that the girl was saved, but this emotion soon morphed from excitement to concern for her – and the many others trapped in similar situations.
Hillsides Education Center is a day school and residential campus for foster-care youth grades k-12. I began volunteering there my sophomore year through Mr. Regan’s Unresolved World Issues project. Since then, Mondays from 4:00–5:00 p.m. have been dubbed my “Hillsides hour.”
Two weeks ago, as I walked through the halls at Hillside, children’s poems tacked up on the walls caught my attention. Several lines struck a chord within me:
I am not supposed to be here
I am a good person, not a bad person
Why, why, why?
It pains me to think that everyone’s disappointed in me
As a friend, sister, niece and most of all daughter
I miss you
I miss home
With every line, the news story of the 12-year old girl came rushing back as I struggled to comprehend the difficulties children in Hillsides deal with. I had never imagined the emotional cost of living at Hillsides, a community I had always seen as beautiful, sheltered, and healthy.
Witnessing someone’s inquiry of his or her own goodness, sense of disappointment, and yearning for home and family was a harrowing experience. Instantly, my work seemed more impactful than just tutoring and mentoring youth. I was teaching math, offering advice, and, I realized, doing my part to help prevent future life-threatening scenarios.
And so I end with a call to action: go, and find a way to impact the life of another person. It doesn’t necessarily have to be working at Hillsides, and it doesn’t have to be as newsworthy as Officer Perez’s actions on that Wednesday. The most important thing is to simply get involved – it might just save a life.
Information on volunteering with Hillsides:
Contact Ian Lee, Tutor Coordinator at email@example.com or visit the website at www.hillsides.org.