Volunteering Changes Lives
Ashley Nieves, a Columbia College student planning to enter the healthcare profession, recalls seeing a poster about the Volunteer Fair and deciding to go that day. She’s thankful she did because that’s where she connected with Ty of “Hidden Treasures of the Sierras”. As a teen, Ashley often felt lonely and could have easily gone down the same path of those living at the Mother Lode Regional Juvenile Detention Facility, but a pastor at her local church made her feel like someone cared and gave her a reason to make good choices.
She felt now was a good time to pay it forward. Hidden Treasures was a perfect fit because Ashley didn’t feel like she had time to do one-on-one mentoring or to be the one organizing it; she could just show up and be a positive influence on the youth.
“The church taught me right from wrong. The fact that someone from the church cared about me, gave me a reason not to quit. I felt it in my heart, God placed me here to make a change. These kids are still young enough to change”
Since starting at the MLRJDF with “Hidden Treasures of the Sierras” in June of 2019, many things have fallen into place for Ashley. Annie Hockett, a Deputy Probation Officer (previously a social worker in the county) invited Ashley to a Volunteer Presentation by renowned child psychologist, Dr. Ross Green, hosted by the YES Partnership and Tuolumne Resiliency Coalition, titled: “Collaborative and Proactive Solutions: Understanding and helping children with social, emotional and behavioral challenges”. This presentation resonated with Ashley as she was reminded the youth at the MLRJDF aren’t bad kids.
Soon after hearing Dr. Green speak, Ashley decided to add to her coursework at Columbia College and is now double majoring in Psychology and Allied Health. She is currently an embedded tutor via the college and has taken those classroom skills directly to MLRJDF. Because of volunteering with “Hidden Treasures of the Sierras”, Ashley feels she’s better able to take initiative and has been able to push out of her comfort zone.
“Since the Volunteer Fair, things in my life have just lined up” Ashley credits her attendance at the Volunteer Fair to her changing life’s course.
While much emphasis is often put on impacts of volunteering by those who receive help, research also shows volunteering can have a large impact on the person volunteering. Research suggests those who volunteer live longer, are happier, and have overall more positive health outcomes. Volunteering can increase one’s ability to obtain a job and can provide valuable hands-on learning experiences for those still in school.