by: Pranayi Pala
Hello! My name is Pranayi Pala and I am a proud ninth grader from Liberty High School, Frisco TX. I recently received a gold level Presidential Volunteer Service Award for completing over a hundred service hours for the year of 2014. 2014 has been an amazing year for me at a personal level as I spent countless hours volunteering for community service and fundraising events for charitable causes. Volunteering, to me, is a way to give something back to the community, and thanking it for all that it has provided for my welfare. Volunteering not only helps in developing important life skills but also helps immensely in developing leadership skills and self-esteem. Most teens of today’s world, including some of my own friends, don’t pay much attention to the importance of community service. It is often looked upon as wasting time at meaningless and boring events. I was under same impression a year ago until I embarked on this beautiful volunteering journey of 2014. I have to thank Vibha for opening this door for me in the field of volunteering and community service. I learned right away that if you pick the events and activities that interests you, you’ll not only thoroughly enjoy doing the work but also makes you keep coming back to do more.
The following services are a few that I really enjoyed participating in:
Every year in spring, Vibha hosts an annual Kite Flying Festival. This event is very popular with residents in the Dallas area. I have volunteered at the Kite Flying Festival for many years now, and it excites me so much to see the huge group of guests and volunteers ready for a day of fun. It’s breath-taking just looking up at the sky and seeing the thousands of kites all up in the air at the same time. Even though my work involves assisting festival guests and selling kites, it doesn’t feel as if I am working because I really enjoy doing it. After my shift, I get to hang out with my fellow volunteers and enjoy the rest of the evening.
Around August, Vibha hosts a mini marathon called Dream Mile. It is worth waking up early in the morning to see all the people lined up at the starting line. Every year more and more people are signing up for the Dream Mile, and people of different age, gender, and ethnicity attend the event. It truly is amazing to see the various mix of people gather together on a Saturday morning to stay fit and healthy. I have a lot of fun handing out snacks and drinks to the runners and congratulating them on their accomplishments.
Another marathon-related event that Vibha takes part in is the Plano Balloon Festival that supports City House Plano. City House is an organization that provides emergency shelter and transitional residential services to children and young adults who are in need due to abuse, neglect or homelessness. The Plano Balloon Festival marathon is very popular among the residents of the city, and the number of people that attend is just mind-blowing. I love seeing the passion that various people have, such as small children, senior citizens, and even moms with baby strollers. The water that I provide for the runners is my way of providing support and encouragement for the marathon participants. I sincerely enjoy volunteering for Vibha because all the events are so fun-filled. I participated in several other non-Vibha activities over the years and I can say this with conviction that Vibha events are so much more fun, especially for teens like me.
Ever since I was young, I had a passion for learning and playing music. I started playing the piano when I was five, and I played the viola for my middle school orchestra. With my musical experience, I knew I wanted to do something for the community that involved playing music. Luckily, I found a newly formed organization called Raag Rhythm. Raag Rhythm is a symphony orchestra that consists of middle and high school kids in the Plano/Frisco area. This orchestra is special because we play Indian classical music on western instruments, therefore fusing Indian and Western cultures together into one mind-blowing ensemble. The program starts in September and ends with a concert in March. During the seven month span, we learned six challenging Indian classical pieces, practicing eight hours a month. All the funds we raised with concert ticket sales went to two charities. One was Musical Angels, whose mission is to uplift and improve the quality of life of hospitalized children by actively engaging them in the process of making music with their own hands and hearts. Music is a powerful, non-invasive medium that assists in reducing fear and anxiety. The other charity was Shankara Eye Foundation, an organization in India that provides eye treatment for people with vision disabilities but cannot afford the high costs of treatment.
Another volunteer service that I enjoy doing is helping out at the Plano Public Library System. I have really enjoyed reading books from a young age, so I know I wanted to help out in the library. Although I am not authorized to help check-out books, I help the librarians out with simple tasks like re-shelving and arranging books on the bookshelf and helping out during the children’s programs. I especially love helping out during the youth programs because it gives me the chance to be a role model for the younger generations. Some of the programs that I helped out with were the Children’s Robotics, in which children got to create and build a robot and use simple programming to make it do easy tasks. I also helped out with Family Game Night, an activity in which families could spend quality time together playing board games. During this time, I have gained a lot of experience of how the library system works.
I have also really come to enjoy a new service that I recently joined called Teen Court. This organization is available all the State of Texas, and is entirely run by teens. The jurors and attorneys are all middle and high school students. Being a juror requires no experience whatsoever, whereas attorney requires applicants to complete a training seminar. Although I have no aspiration for a career in Law, I still enjoy being a juror and listening in on the cases. Many people think that Teen Court is like a mock trial, but in actuality, the cases presented before the court are real. The prosecution and defense present their arguments and the jury has the responsibility to deliberate and come out with a verdict. This volunteer service experience has taught me many important skills such as collaborating with others and being a leader.
The above services are just a few of the community service projects that I have participated in 2014. I had so much fun volunteering in my neighborhood, community, and even through Vibha. I possess a vague understanding of the world around me, but I know there is so much more to learn and experience. Volunteering is a win-win situation because the community benefits from all the hours I put in, and I gain valuable knowledge and experience working with other people like myself. Vibha has given me a step up into the real world, and because of Vibha, I have gotten to be a part of so many amazing activities and services. As I look back on all the things that I have done in 2014, I truly believe that 2015 will be even more magical and memorable.