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Changemaker Spotlight: Liza Therkelsen

Liza Therkelsen has been volunteering as one of our College Prep Mentor with our Teen Center since September. Every week Liza works one-on-one with her mentee guiding them through the college application process and helping to prepare them for college. Our Edgies Teen Center relies on mentors to give personal attention to high school seniors, which they often lack. The mentors work closely with the students, forming relationships with them that often last beyond the year, and provide them with one-on-one support throughout the application process with things like editing essays and choosing schools. We are lucky to have dedicated and enthusiastic mentors like Liza who help make our Teen Center so great!

1. What brought you to volunteering at MCC?

I found MCC after researching local community centers with volunteer opportunities. I really connected with how MCC reflects the inclusive values of a Jewish center in its foundation while changing with the demographics of the area in order to best serve the community in which we live. I love being a part of the College Prep program because I get to develop a direct relationship with my mentee and provide guidance during a stressful but exciting time in their academic life. As a recent college graduate, I’m very familiar with the college application process, but I also get to learn from my mentee and help him unlock his potential.

2. What has your experience been like?

Awesome! It was great to have an onboarding informational session in the beginning of the school year to connect with the other volunteers and hear from returning volunteers on their experience. I really look forward to my weekly time with my mentee. I also appreciated the resources I was given from the program’s leaders to help refresh me on the college application process.

3. What does being a volunteer mean to you?

Being a volunteer means connecting with my community and feeling I am contributing towards something bigger than myself. It means giving back. Growing up, my parents encouraged my siblings and me to think beyond our own wants and needs. It felt easy to get involved with philanthropic events and organizations in my hometown because I often heard about them through friends or family. When I moved to New York after college, I was initially overwhelmed by finding the right volunteer opportunity that aligned with my skills, values, and interests. When I found MCC I was really excited by the types of volunteer programs, events, and support they provide.

4. What is your favorite part about volunteering?

I feel very rewarded knowing I am making a direct impact with helping my mentee succeed. It’s great getting to see him each week and hear about the progress he’s made in his college search process. Now that it’s February, I am holding my breath to hear which colleges he gets into and where he decides to go!

5. Do you have a favorite story or anecdote from volunteering?

I feel like I have a story from each week because I learn new things about my mentee that surprise me. In our most recent meeting, my mentee had less work to do because he’s in the midst of waiting to hear back from colleges. We spent the time covering a lot of different topics,

from him explaining day trading to me (one of his interests), discussing our favorite music, and researching things he wants to buy for college.

6. One fun fact about you?

I used to be a camp counselor at a sleepaway camp where I taught waterskiing, archery, improv, and ropes course.

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.