Contributed by: Makenna Brandt, Community Relations Intern
Monica Richardson is not only our Volunteer of the Month for June, she is also our Volunteer of the Year! Congratulations Monica!
Monica has been volunteering with GEN for a little over two years in a wide capacity, including office assistance, volunteer nights, event photography, speaking at career day, Pathfinder, fund-raising, and co-facilitating a 180 program.
We asked Monica some questions to find out why she loves GEN, and why GEN loves her:
1. Why did you choose to volunteer with GEN in the first place?
I decided to get involved with GEN when I took some time off work and was looking for ways to give back to the community. I attended one of GEN’s volunteer training sessions to get a sense of the services and people behind the organization, and I loved what I saw. GEN’s mission, programming, and amazing staff resonated with me, and I knew I had to be a part of it!
2. What about GEN has made you stick around for so long?
I’ve stuck around for this long because it’s fun! I like being able to make a positive difference in the lives of others, while also having tons of fun. I also like the variety of volunteer opportunities. There are so many different ways to help, which keeps things interesting. A big bonus is that I’ve been able to sharpen my skills (like public speaking and group facilitation), and also expand my network. Pretty cool!
3. What is your favorite part about volunteering with GEN?
My favorite part is hanging out with the girls we serve, as well as the amazing staff and other volunteers. I’ve met some of the most amazing and interesting people through GEN!
4. What would your advice be to other volunteers?
Don’t be afraid to commit to a weekly program! I was nervous about signing up for the 180 group, but my co-facilitator did a great job of preparing me for each session, and let me pick the activities and exercises I felt comfortable leading. It’s really fun and satisfying to get to build relationships with the girls and see how they change over the course of the semester.
5. What qualities about yourself do you think made GEN choose you to be Volunteer of the Year?
I’m reliable, open-minded, positive, curious, and compassionate.
6. Is there a particularly inspiring moment you’ve witnessed when volunteering with the girls?
Most recently, I volunteered as a co-facilitator for one of GEN’s weekly programs. The first few sessions with our middle school girls were a bit awkward, as many of the girls were quiet, guarded, and suspicious of one another. Nobody really wanted to open up or share anything that could potentially set them up for embarrassment or criticism. About half way through the semester, my co-facilitator (Angie) and I found out that two groups of girls within our group had been feuding for the past two years, and had already been through countless rounds of mediations and investigations with various members of the school staff. However, things started turning around after we did some exercises around our “inner mean girl” – that little voice that tells us we’re not good enough, we don’t belong, we’re not pretty enough, etc. As the girls learned how to recognize that voice and de-escalate her, they became more self-aware and more compassionate towards themselves and one another. They realized they had more in common than they’d thought, and they slowly started to let their guards down. By the end of the semester, they were working and laughing together again.