Zara Shariff was the featured student speaker at Presentation’s Community Service Assembly in September 2017. This is the transcript of her speech:
Good morning everyone, my name is Zara Shariff and I am a sophomore. This summer I wanted to help out in my community and I decided to volunteer at Athena Camps. Athena Camps is a summer camp for 5-13 year old girls where they learn to be strong, helpful, and confident by playing a variety of sports along with other activities. In addition, they also develop their skills to be kind supportive team members as they cheer each other on throughout their week at Athena Camps.
My main role at the camp was to help create an environment where the girls could be positive and have fun. Initially, my job as an intern was to help out in the background. My days usually consisted of organizing supplies and running errands for the Directors. As I volunteered more throughout the summer, my tasks became less oriented towards helping the camp counselors, and was more focused on the girls. A huge part of my job was to encourage the girls to continue to have fun while playing their sports. I enjoyed watching them create strong bonds with each other and form new friendships that they didn’t have before.
I eventually decided to spend most of my summer at Athena Camps because I am so proud of what they stand for. They have so many outstanding opportunities for girls, for instance practicing teamwork, making new friendships, and even learning to love a new sport that they never played before. It was amazing to see how happy each girl was at the end of each week. It was easy to notice how special each day was to all the girls and I was overjoyed to help make Athena Camps as remarkable as it was, each day this summer. As Pres girls, I am sure you all can relate to this feeling, of being part of a community where we are inspired to build each other up. If anyone of you have either encountered this or seen it happen in a work or volunteer setting, I am sure you can understand how special this experience is.
One of the the most memorable activities for me at Athena Camps was the boost board where everyone sticks post-it notes onto a board and each post-it says a positive quality about another girl. There was one girl in particular that I remember who really wanted to make sure everyone felt included and confident, including the camp counselors. Her name was Sophia, and she made sure to write multiple post-its for every single girl throughout the week. She was so genuine in her notes and created deep connections with all the other girls. With this simple act, Sophia taught me to remember that our words can really mean something when we put them to good use – even on a post-it. She taught me to be genuine and ensure that everyone around me is feeling their best.
Our school theme this year is “Your Words are Everlasting Life.” With this theme, I look to Sophia’s example by remembering that our words and actions can change our worlds for the better. In Sophia’s example, she chose to be supportive, positive, and encouraging. And through my volunteer experience at Athena’s camp, I was impacted by observing her kindness towards others. We can remember Sophia’s example by recalling that our words and our actions can create massive effects.
There are a number of organizations where we can not only use our voice but also venture into actions that can have a positive effect on the communities around us. Athena Camps is definitely one of them; they not only have given me the chance to watch young girls grow into incredible young women, but they also gave me the opportunity to grow and develop numerous skills that I can use in my day to day life and pass on to others. I encourage all of you to go out there and find an organization that has the same effect on you.