Today’s Turning Point comes from guest writer, Mary-Grace Reeves, a senior in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program at Pensacola High School in Pensacola, Fla.
The head librarian’s words echoed in my mind. “We don’t have the money, and we don’t have the manpower to start a new program.” In the weeks preceding this moment, as a library volunteer in the children’s department, I recognized a void in community reading programs specifically designed for young girls. I wanted girls to have the opportunity to improve their reading abilities, while learning about our nation’s past and contributing to our future through community service. However, as I faced the librarian, in a library across the street from where homes had been destroyed just years earlier by Hurricane Ivan, I realized that the library’s inability to bring my idea to life did not prevent me from taking action. The summer of 2008 marked my turning point: I jumped up, saying “I will do it!” Rather than waiting until someone else took action, I realized I could make a difference.
Since August 2008, I have led 46, unique monthly programs of the American Girl Book Club. However, I am not the only one who has a memorable “turning point.” I have found that the 7 to 12-year-old girls I work with also encounter “turning points” each month at our meetings. This “turning point” could result from gaining new knowledge. For example, in our detailed discussions of girls’ lives in past historical eras, brought to life by the Perdido Bay Indians and their Mobile Museum, guest speakers from the National Museum of Naval Aviation, fashion displays from the Daughters of the American Revolution, annual participation in the African American Read-In, Russian culture presentations from the Global Corner International Learning Center and even Asian-American language studies, to name a few, I have introduced the American Girl Book Club members to not only historical, but cultural traditions. This heightened appreciation of diversity shapes the girls’ approach to life.
I have also witnessed American Girl Book Club members encounter a “turning point,” with volunteerism as a means of empowerment. The girls realize that they can truly make a difference, whether through donating food to our annual American Girl Book Club Manna Food Drives (in the spirit of Great Depression American Girl character Kit), protecting our Gulf Coast beaches through a sea life conservation program I developed with the University of Florida (like American Girl Kanani’s experiences in her book series), involvement in our Global Youth Service Day initiatives to raise environmental awareness, honoring our servicemen and women on the anniversaries of 9/11 through construction of patriotic memorials displayed in New York City and Washington, D.C., creating Valentines for Naval Hospital Pensacola staff and veterans as part of the National Valentine’s for Veterans Project, and more.
You see, each month is a small “turning point,” but these small events collectively make a large impact in the girls’ lives, contributing to who they are today and how they will continue to view volunteerism as an integral part of daily life.
Mary-Grace is a member of the 2011 PARADE All-America High School Service Team, an award recognizing outstanding young service leaders presented by PARADE Magazine in partnership with generationOn, the global youth enterprise of Points of Light.