A Graduate’s Story of Service through TELEM

Published on September 16, 2014 by TELEM


David Fishman was a tutor for two years in the JCC/TELEM Literacy Corps. This corps brought Lexington High School students to the Medford Boys’ and Girls’ Club on Tuesdays to assist first and second graders with homework, reading and academic skill development in their “Power Hour” academic enrichment time. The experience at MBGC had a profound impact on David.  He also earned the honor of being the Graduation Speaker at the Lexington High School graduation this past June, and spoke at length of his inspirational experience as a volunteer in that program. Below is an excerpt of that speech - a story of David’s connection to the kids he’s come to know and his commitment to work to make the world a better, more humane place.

…………..“ I want to transition now to a quick story about influence. Myself and several other Lexington High School students, some of whom are members of the Class of 2014, participated in a community service project at the Medford Boys’ and Girls’ Club called [TELEM] Youth Literacy Corps. Each Tuesday, a group of us would take a shuttle bus to the Club and help first and second graders with homework and reading skills and strategies. I got to know one kid particularly well. His name is Jonathan. Jonathan is everything that our youth should be: energetic, curious, and not afraid of making mistakes.

Each Tuesday, the [Medford] kids would come running in at 3:30 excited to see [us], pull out their binders and worksheets and eventually settle down enough to where they could begin working.

One day, Jonathan plopped down in his seat, looked up at me and said ‘I need a pencil’. I told him to go get one from the supplies box. He went to the supplies box. He came back, no pencil. I told him to go ask the Club staff member. He came back, no pencil. It was crazy to look around the room and see that this Club and program which seeks to help kids improve their academic skills, did not even have enough pencils for all of the students. Jonathan sat back down, discouraged. He looked up at me again: ‘What should I do?’

What should I do?

On a fundamental level, we needed to solve the pencil problem for that afternoon and the afternoons that followed. But the question that Jonathan asked is really a bigger question – it applies to the choices that we make in our lives. In that moment when Jonathan asked that question, he was unaware of how much he influenced me. He got me thinking.

Well, what do I mean when I say what should we do? What should we do to make sure that those who come after us will see a better world.  Here’s what I think we should do.

We should be confident in our ability to connect with and positively influence those around us. The biggest mistake we can make is thinking that we as individuals and as group members cannot have an impact. It’s also important to remember that we can influence others and make an impact in small ways. Fighting world hunger and curing cancer, yes, [are] critically important issues. But not all of us will be able to fight for those causes head on. What can we do? The little things.

Smiling, holding the door for the person behind you, serving your community and developing relationships. Think about it: the world is made up of those little things. Imagine what would happen if everyone across our school, our town, our state, our country, made a commitment to do their small part.

And to quote Jackie Robinson:

‘A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.’ ”

Amen, David.

David will start college at the University of Richmond (VA) this fall.  He has already visited the Richmond Boys’ and Girls’ Club to inquire about volunteering there.

Good luck David. You are making a difference in people’s lives!