Laurie Lichtenstein has been volunteering at MCC in the teen center this summer, helping students begin their college applications and working on a new mentor curriculum. With limited staff, Laurie provided integral support to our teens by giving them one and one attention and offering her skills and expertise in education and college counseling to our center. Laurie has gone above and beyond this summer to ensure our teens have the knowledge and advice they need to succeed.
Read about her experience in her own words:
What brought you to volunteering at MCC?
I am currently enrolled in an on-line certificate program through UCLA to get my certificate in college counseling. As part of that program, we need to do a practicum. I wanted to find somewhere where I could really interact with the students and help them with their applications, rather than play a back seat. Had I chosen a school setting I would not have had such autonomy or been able to interact with the teens so much, which I really enjoy. So, when I happened upon Manny Cantor, and they were eager to have someone with my background help in the summer program, I felt it would be a good match.
What has your experience been like?
The commute from Westchester aside, I have really enjoyed the experience. Most of the students with whom I work, and the district where I teach is fairly homogeneous. Working with city kids has been delightful. Teens are teens anywhere, but I have learned a tremendous amount from the students about city high schools, which differs greatly from suburban schools. I was fortunate to have a small enough group on each day that I could spend time with the students one on one to help guide them through the process and at least make a dent in their personal statements! Admittedly, we often got sidetracked as they shared concerns or ideas with me, and I asked questions to help them hone their ideas. I love being a sounding board for kids. I am, however, frustrated that we did not have more time, as many of the kids did not finish.
What does being a volunteer mean to you?
I feel I have a responsibility to share my skill set with others. I always look for volunteer opportunities that are in line with what I can offer. In this case, the smile and sense of relief when a student finishes her essay is very gratifying. I feel like I have lightened to load just a bit.
Do you have a favorite story or anecdote from volunteering?
I don’t know if there is one anecdote in particular, but one thing I looked forward to every week was listening to their stories. Everyone has a story, and since a major focus this summer has been working on their personal statements, I got to hear a different one each and every week. The kids come from such diverse backgrounds, and many of them are first generation. Although not every essay tied back to their struggles as immigrants, beneath the surface there was always something to be gleaned about their culture or family.
One fun fact about you?
I do some freelance writing, and several years ago had a column in a local newspaper that took a humorous look at parenting where I dished out on my own three kids!
As a changemaker, volunteers are part of a movement of engaged New Yorkers taking action to strengthen Lower East Side and beyond. Our spotlight series provides an opportunity to share the stories of why community members get involved, what they gain from the experience, and the impact they are able to make at the Manny Cantor Center and in the community. Thank you to all who choose to come through our doors to help build the neighborhood we want to live in.
If you are interested in volunteering or getting involved with us here at Manny Cantor Center, we have opportunities available for a variety of schedules and interests. Learn more about about being a Volunteer Changemaker at MCC here.