The Loma Prietan - May/June 2009

Out-of-Work Journalist Finds Fulfillment in Volunteering

by Justin Moresco

It's a giant slug! A beached submarine! A lost Bufano sculpture! No, it's an elephant seal, the pride of Ano Nuevo State Park, the site of ICO Volunteer Justin Moresco's outing with Sequoia High School teens. Photo: Josue Perez
It's a giant slug! A beached submarine! A lost Bufano sculpture! No, it's an elephant seal, the pride of Ano Nuevo State Park, the site of ICO Volunteer Justin Moresco's outing with Sequoia High School teens. Photo: Josue Perez

President Barack Obama has called for a renewed spirit of volunteerism in America and has promised to invest in programs like AmeriCorps. That's great news since, as I discovered, donating one's time benefits the volunteers as much as the recipients.

I recently was out of work for several months. It was a difficult time. But the "time off" also delivered an opportunity as I discovered volunteer projects. Within weeks I joined the Loma Prieta Chapter's Inner City Outings (ICO) and signed on to organize a fundraiser through my church.

With ICO, suddenly I was part of a wonderful group of like-minded people who loved sharing their passion for the outdoors with young adults. And with my church, volunteering made me feel more connected to the community and gave me much-needed confidence as the project progressed successfully.

My renewed spirit of volunteerism also reminded me that a little effort goes a long way. Take for instance a recent ICO trip to Año Nuevo State Park. Two other ICO volunteers and I took a group of about 20 Sequoia High School students to see elephant seals at the popular wind-swept coastal park.

On the car ride over, I learned that the three young adults in my car—all immigrants from Mexico—had never been to the ocean. Imagine their shrieks of joy when they first glimpsed the Pacific!

As we hiked down to the beach after our docent-led tour, the Sequoia High School teacher told me that one of the great benefits of these ICO outings is her students' exposure to English. Most, perhaps all of the students, she told me, interact very little with native English speakers. Though they live in the heart of Silicon Valley, their lives hum along in Spanish. They speak Spanish with friends, classmates, and parents. They listen to music sung in Spanish and watch Spanishlanguage TV. Even the English spoken in their classes might be intermixed with Spanish.

Throughout the day, I had been using my limited Spanish with the students as much as I could. But now the teacher was asking me not to use it. They need the exposure, she said. They need to master English if they want to open themselves to real opportunity after they graduate from high school.

As she said this, three heads bobbed in agreement around her, three heads of kids with whom earlier I had struggled to form a coherent sentence in Spanish. Speak in English! I can do that, I thought. For me, nothing could be simpler.

Justin Moresco is a member of the Chapter's Inner City Outings and is a journalist and writer based in Burlingame. He now writes about clean technology for Red Herring.