About three years ago, I went with my father to one of Side by Side Kids' golf tournament - while we didn’t play well in the tournament, I had a great time and was introduced to Sly and some of the staff members that were running the event!
Fast forward to July 2016. Although I had been volunteering for the past 13 years with an Alzheimer's respite program at my church, I was looking for additional organizations to get involved with to give back to the Austin community. I was reminded of SBSK and was encouraged to reach out and see if there were any volunteer opportunities available. I was in luck!
I have been loving my experience getting to serve with Side by Side Kids! It’s incredibly rewarding to know we have the opportunity to impact the lives of these kids, and show them how important education, kindness, and spirituality are when creating a positive future for themselves.
I volunteer every Wednesday for about three and a half hours with the kindergarten and first graders at T.A. Brown. When they see me, they call me by the nicknames they've given me - Mr. Pizza or Mr. Candy - and love to give me high fives! During homework time, I help them with any questions they have, like understanding concepts they're learning about in class, or understanding the directions on their worksheets. I also get to participate in recreation time with them - typically we play four square, throw around a football, or play soccer!
I work with Ms. Effie, their Crew Leader, and help with the lesson plan. She is definitely the brains behind making everything work in the classroom, I just try to help her make things easier!
Ms. Effie is a fantastic person and teacher - she cares deeply about impacting her kids' lives and teaching them about God and making smart choices. In addition to getting to know each other through Side by Side Kids, she also took an interest in getting to know me as a person. She asked me questions about my faith, what other organizations I am involved in, my other hobbies/passions, and just questions about my life in general. It showed me that she cared about getting to know me, and everyone else she works with, on a more personal level rather than just going through the motions.
Going to Side by Side Kids every Wednesday is one of the highlights of my week because I love seeing all the kids and the staff members I’ve gotten to know over the last semester! The kids at T.A. Brown have been through a lot this semester with the school change, but it was a blessing that SBSK was able to work through that and keep them together with the Crew Leaders and volunteers that they developed such strong bonds with.