For the past four summers, PAIR has been engaging students through an educational and fun-filled summer program. We have always relied on skilled interns to help create and manage this program, and this year we had two wonderful interns join our team. Kadie Fields, a volunteer and senior from University of Houston, and Madhuri Venkateswar, a volunteer and sophomore from Rice University, comprised our exceptional duo. They were respectively funded by Harris County Community Youth Development and ExxonMobil Community Summer Jobs Programs. They worked together for 8 weeks to plan, run, and complete our very successful summer program. Below are their reflections on their experiences.
Kadie Fields - July 28, 2014
I have been involved with PAIR since my freshman year of college, almost two and a half years now. I am now a senior at the University of Houston and have been given the opportunity to be a Summer Program Manager. One might ask why I come back every semester, and I would say that I do it for the students. However, I feel that I get more out of it than I am able to give. This is some of what I got from my internship:
On every day of program I woke up excited to go to work. I bonded with the students and was filled with happiness any time I saw students having fun or interacting with counselors. The students have such a great sense of humor and unique personalities that had me laughing every day. I grew attached to these students in a short amount of time, and I was committed to giving them a great program.
It is a unique privilege for me to go to work and be surrounded by such a diverse group of people. The students in the summer program were born in 14 different countries and spoke 10 different languages. I got to be immersed in an environment where people from different cultural backgrounds were relating to each other and learning from each other.
Throughout all of my experience with PAIR, my eyes have been opened to refugee resettlement in Houston, but this has been especially true during my internship. While planning and implementing a program designed to be beneficial to the students, the students were more than just statistics. I got to know them and see the ways I, as a member of the community, could be doing more. As a community, we have a responsibility to do what we can to help the new members. With PAIR, you can make an impact by just committing a few hours out of your week to volunteer.
Lastly, I got invaluable professional experience from my internship. Working for a nonprofit offers many unique tasks that expanded my horizons. Probably the most beneficial would be the leadership experience that I got while managing volunteers and leading program.
Now that my internship is over, I will be volunteering as a mentor in a learners program. With this program, I volunteer one day a week for a few hours at Las Americas Middle School with junior high students. I will surely take this experience with me while volunteering and beyond.
Madhuri Venkateswar - July 28, 2014
There is a unique beauty in knowing what tomorrow is going to look like. There is a peace in the stability and I take the consistency for granted. I am privileged enough to be the queen of goals – 1 year, 5 year, 10 year – I have them all. But why? Why can I be certain that my world will stay the way it is and just allow me to move forward? Why do I assume that I will be given the same opportunities tomorrow that I had yesterday?
These were the questions I, Madhuri Venkateswar, started asking myself this summer when I served as one of the Summer Program Managers for PAIR. As a freshman last year at Rice University, I had volunteered with PAIR’s Westbury High School program, but I didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew is that I wanted to experience the ins and outs of working for a nonprofit. I thought I deeply understood what the mission of the organization was, but I quickly realized that I had no idea how much my work with refugee youth would impact me.
It’s hard to imagine being plucked from what you know and being unceremoniously dumped into a foreign country. For most, if not all, it’s an extreme culture shock, and I don’t know if even I would survive it. But the students I worked with don’t just live. They thrive. English is just another language they pick up in addition to the two, three, or four they already speak. They are vibrant, curious, innovative, and witty people who welcome the chance to learn something new.
As I worked with students for five weeks this summer, I know that they affected me far more than I helped them. For them, life had changed drastically but they never stopped to lament what had happened before. Through our myriad of activities – Career Day, Math Basketball, and Autobiography posters to name a few, and our variety of fieldtrips – museums, rollerblading, and even the Houston Police Academy – the students absorbed everything. I’ve never felt more proud to be a part of someone’s growth because I know it is long term.
My conception of what “future” is will never be the same and that is because I spent two months with some of the most inspirational people I will ever meet. PAIR accomplishes what no other organization can do – it celebrates the beautiful contribution all youth give our world.