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January 16, 2021

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Volunteering his summer

Daniel Mast, a senior at Bluffton University didn't want to spend a typical summer at his home in Goshen, Ind. Instead, the middle childhood education major opted to get out of the Midwest, and volunteer in Albuquerque, N.M.

Mast volunteered at a program located in the Sandia Vista apartments in Albuquerque. The children enrolled in the program were pre-school age through sixth grade and lived in the apartment complex. During the school year, the program functions as an after-school program.

The focus of the program changes in the summer, Mast explained. "The summer program is set up to lessen the falloff when school is not in session. We essentially maintained a sense of education." The children were split into three groups, by age, and would come for a few hours a day during the week.

A typical day included a time of activities and games like corn hole, carpet ball and Capture the Flag. The program offered two different tutoring sessions as well. One session was held before the program started in the morning and one followed the program.

Mast felt that the experience challenged him, and gave him a glimpse into what his future as a teacher may look like. It reassured him that teaching was the right fit for him. "I was able to go through eight hours a day, day after day, week after week, and still enjoy being with the kids," Mast said. "You're tired at the end of the day but there is still a feeling of satisfaction."

At the end of the summer, Mast and the other volunteers were asked to plan a family event for the children in the program, as well as their parents and other siblings. The group considered throwing a carnival or festival to celebrate the end of the year. Ultimately, they decided on an idea that they felt would have a lasting impact.

The budgeted money for the family event was put towards buying school supplies for all 31 children in the program. This was made possible by generous donations from many outside people. Because of this, the children all had new backpacks, folders and many other basic school supplies to begin the new school year. Mast felt this was a particularly valuable experience, both for him and the families. "I had so much fun all summer and we were able to give them something they truly needed."