By Mengmao Thao

I’ve always enjoyed helping out the community from a young age. At every opportunity, if I can help, I’ll go and help. I think this all started for me around the 8th grade.

It was very rough for me at that time and I felt all alone. I wasn’t the most outgoing kid and rarely talked. Sad to say but I bottled up my feelings too. I really hated it and by “it” I mean being alone, shy, zero personality and feeling sorry for myself all the time. This part of me has to change, that’s what I told myself everyday.

Then one day, I was given the opportunity to change. A flyer of an advertisement for an after school youth program. The flyer threw words at me like “fun, exciting, character building, and etc.” It caught my attention right away so on the very same day I went to check out this program.

The moment I walked in, I felt welcome right away. That’s when I knew I was in the right place and heading towards the path I wanted. So for the very first time in my life I experienced icebreakers, group introductions outside of classes, team building games, and leadership activities. That program and it’s mentors left a very strong impression on me so I kept going every single day.

After awhile, we planned community events, talked about issues concerning us, and I made more and more friends. Eventually I was able to speak out more, be more outgoing, be less passive, and most of all be more of myself in front of people. I am very thankful for that, so I felt that I should be giving my all back to the community. I wanted to be that inspiring mentor whom I looked up to for a long time to another youth. Maybe one day someone will look up to me and think the same.