California- Los Angeles

Melissa Christiansen

Where did you serve? 
I serve right here at home in the low income neighborhood of Arlington Heights–an area within Los Angeles. I travel with Amigos De UCLA every week to Pio Pico Middle School to facilitate a free summer camp for local elementary school students. We play soccer, frisbee, and hopscotch, draw with chalk, draw pictures and read books. We even do a planned educational activity with the kids each week at camp.


Were there any moments of culture shock that really stood out? 

I wouldn’t say that there have been many moments of culture shock, serving so close to home, but there have been many moments that have made me realize how fortunate I have been to grow up in a family where a college education was not only seen as attainable, but as a necessary step in life.


What organization did you serve with? Does it have a UCLA connection?

I volunteer with Amigos De UCLA, which is a community service organization on campus in which UCLA students tutor children in the Arlington Heights area throughout the school year. This is actually the first summer that Amigos De UCLA has hosted a summer camp so it is a new experience for all of us!


Why did you choose this organization and location?

I chose to serve this summer with Amigos De UCLA as a continuation of volunteering with Amigos during the school year. A friend introduced me to Amigos two years ago, and I quickly realized that it was just the service organization that I had been looking for. I like serving right here in LA because I think that it’s important to be involved in the community that you are a part of, and I like the real impact that I can make on a child’s life by encouraging him or her to go to college. I have always loved working with kids, and I feel like I learn something new about myself or the world around me every time I volunteer with Amigos.


What lessons have you learned from your volunteer experience?

The kids remind me how easy it is to have fun with simple materials and good company, how fun it is to color, how hard it really is to accurately throw a frisbee in the wind, and how exciting and competitive a wordsearch can be. I have learned how important it is for kids to get a little one on one time to really understand concepts taught in school, and how much of a difference a good role model can really make in the life of a child.

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The More You Know

Area Served Arlington Heights, Los Angeles
Current Poverty Rate of the Area 16.6%
Service Organization Amigos de UCLA
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