I’m Wesley Luong, a freshman at James Logan High School and this is my story about connecting with my interests, while volunteering with Code for fun.
I just started off like every other high school student in freshman year. There are so many new opportunities and events to get involved in. Seeing how I didn’t have any community service hours, I attended my first event. It was as easy as me checking my email and clicking on the first link I saw. As you can probably imagine, this first link was Code for Fun. Thinking nothing of it, I quickly shot an email to the camp director, Ujjwala Gadgil. Within a day I managed to get a response. To be honest, I was extremely nervous heading into my first community service event. I had no hours leading up to the camp, so I was anxious to attend. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous of the hours I would have to put in at the camp. However, I can ultimately say I would definitely regret not attending the camp. I went from not even considering community service to being open and willing to attend any new events I can find.
The camp I attended was Creative Computing, at the Union City Sports Center. It was a five minute drive from my house to the camp. As I walked in, I saw two people: Maurisio Lombera, the instructor, and Servane Demol, the executive director of the organization (But not to my knowledge). I saw that I was the only volunteer there, and I was already doubting my decision to come. However, Ms. Demol’s words comforted me to realize that I had made the right decision. I had no experience in Computer Science whatsoever, and was horrified at the possibility of messing the camp up for the children. Soon, all my fears disappeared as the children started streaming in at around 8:30. Class got started almost immediately. Maurisio turned out to be an excellent director, making the content easily understandable and relatable to the children and I. Before I knew it, we were already headed into our first project. Helping the children out was a blast. I enjoyed seeing their enthusiasm and willingness to participate as they breezed through each lesson with the superb instruction that they had. But, it wasn’t all Maurisio that caused this to run so smoothly. Sangita Nath, a co-director, also made sure things ran smoothly among the children themselves. Between the two, the camp probably could’ve went fine without me.
That’s not to say I had nothing to do. I was assigned to supervise the children during play time and I even taught them a lesson about binary numbers.
My main gripe with volunteering is that I feel like I am getting hours for doing next to nothing. Code for fun made sure that I was actively involved and actually contributed to the end goal: education for children. The children got burned out in the later days of the camp, and Sangita and I had an increasingly harder time getting them interested in the material. I, for one, was not surprised. Children at the age of seven to ten were bound to lose interest at some time. What did surprise me was the fact that one child seemed to be more energetic than the rest. He had retained the same enthusiasm he had on day one. His name: Hendrick. His raw enjoyment for the lesson plans honestly got me going through the six hour days, I had a few questions for him regarding his incredible interest in computers. I had assumed that he had prior experience or had parent influence before going into the camp. I found out his father was actually an engineer. Hendrick himself had gotten into computers the same way I had. Like any child, he fell in love with computers after playing video games. I still remember the first thing he said was to beg Maurisio to let him make his own game. I probed around, and found out that Hendrick had already decided to attend the other camps that Code for fun had to offer.
In a way, Hendrick and I were similar. He came in not exactly knowing or wanting to do the Creative Computing camp. However, through some struggles and successes, Hendrick learned to love and appreciate the beauty of what coding has to offer. For me, I discovered my newfound excitement for volunteering and Computer Science. I’ve already signed up for my first Computer Science class sophomore year. Don’t be like me, go out there and pursue your interests. If I’m any proof, anybody can go out there and discover what they love. For me, I’ve already signed up for five more camps at different places like Union City, Fremont, and Milpitas. I look forward to going back and meeting more new children and collaborating with different staff members. Hendrick will continue on to new camps, as will I. I would not give anything up for the experiences I’ve gained at Code for Fun."
Wesley Luong, Ninth Grade Freshman at James Logan High School - April 2017