Volunteering with kids changed my life.

In 1994 I had been proudly working as an attorney at Oakland’s largest law firm, when I agreed to coordinate a Homework Help Night at the West Oakland Boys & Girls Club. Every Wednesday night I’d walk into the Club and one little boy in particular – Nathan – would just light up with a huge grin and sprint across the gym to hug me. We’d then retreat to the Club’s library where I’d help him through his homework, along with other kids.

Nathan didn’t consider himself a good student. I loved showing him that with just a little explanation he could master the work just fine.

Watching that pride and confidence blossom in Nathan was one of the best feelings I’d ever had – even more satisfying to me than the prestige or paycheck from the law firm. In 1995 I took the big leap of leaving my legal career to start a centralized volunteer program for the Oakland Public Schools at the Marcus Foster Education Fund. I’ve been happily working in public service ever since (and have never stopped volunteering with kids).

On Saturday, September 7th you can change your life by attending Volunteering for Oakland’s 5th Annual School Volunteer Fair. This free event offers a ‘one-stop’ solution that makes it easy for you to find a volunteer program that matches your interests, schedule and abilities. Across from the Grand Lake Theater & Farmer’s Market at Lakeview Elementary (go up driveway for ample free parking), you can buy your organic pears and then attend the Volunteer Fair from 10am-1pm where a variety of opportunities await you!


Volunteering with kids (or mentoring) is proven to produce positive outcomes [http://www.mdrc.org/sites/default/files/Role%20of%20Risk_Exec%20Sum-web%20final.pdf], regardless of risk factors, and is even good for your health as well [http://www.nationalservice.gov/pdf/07_0506_hbr.pdf]! We also know placing positive, caring adults into the lives of children and helping them succeed in school is part of a long-term strategy for a peaceful, compassionate and law-abiding society – something Oakland so desperately needs. This is something you can do for a safer Oakland, and you’ll enjoy it.


As for my young friend Nathan, we have remained close these nearly 20 years. I continue to feel pride in his successes, including his current job as a tax preparer and lovely fiancée. But even if you don’t keep in touch with the kids you’ll meet through volunteering, I promise you will have changed their lives – and chances are they will change yours as well.


Volunteering for Oakland’s 5th Annual School Volunteer Fair

Lakeview School, 746 Grand Avenue (across from Grand Lake Theater & Farmer’s Market)

Plenty of free parking at end of long driveway

Saturday, September 7, 2013

10am – 1pm


One Response

  1. Tamera White

    Thank you for sharing the importance of volunteering in our schools.

    Nearly 20 years ago I attended a presentation by George C. Fraser, author of the book “Success Runs in Our Race,” who said that if every able adult volunteered just one hour a week in the schools we would solve every problem in our schools. Poweful statement.

    I will attend the school volunteer fair.


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