Why I Volunteer…

by Justin Kemp, SPA Treasurer

I never really felt like I had strong ties to a community. Maybe it’s because I’m not very outgoing as a person. Maybe it’s because, while growing up, I moved to a new city every couple of years, so I never developed those “life-long” friendships. I knew, once we learned we were expecting our first child, that I wanted something different for my kids.

As I mentioned, I’m not very outgoing as a person. I’m an introvert. And I knew that left on my own, I wouldn’t take any steps to create those relationships with other families. Those relationships that are essential for my son to learn how to be social and make friends. What was the solution to this? The best solution I could come up with was to get involved.

Separately, I had already learned that volunteering and service were easy ways to socialize. I’m not one to walk up to a stranger and make small talk. But put me in a position where strangers have to walk up to me and ask me questions, or a position where a group of people have a common goal, conversations and interactions become easy. In High School, I would always volunteer for things such as help building the homecoming float, or tech for the winter play. Later in life, I started volunteering for events such as NoH8 Photoshoots and local comic-cons and fan conventions. It has allowed me to meet a lot of fascinating and amazing people, some of whom are famous. I’m proud today of that fact that you could put me side by side any famous celebrity in a service role, and I can keep my cool and keep up a good conversation. But, put me in front of celebrity strictly as a fan, I suddenly become speechless and I stumble over the few words I am able to get out.

So why do I volunteer for SPA? Well, I care deeply about my son’s education, and the education of all students. Their education is the answer to the world’s problems. If we’re lucky, we’ll see some of those answers in our lifetime. If I’m being honest, though, my real motivation is more selfish. I do it because through service, I have developed some truly great friendships that I suspect will last a lifetime. I do because forcing myself outside of my comfort zone will teach my son to push himself outside his comfort zone. I do it, because I like be connected to my community, which is something I’ve never really had before moving to Castro Valley.

This year I’ve been a part of lot of conversation about how to get more people involved, how to get more volunteers. The answer is easy, personal connections. I met an amazing parent on my first or second day of Kindergarten that pulled me in. That’s worth more than all the emails, newsletters, and fliers that are sent out. But the answer is not as easy as it sounds, because I said, I’m an introvert. I’m not one to walk up to stranger and strike up a conversation. At 43, that’s probably not a habit I will develop. Maybe by writing this, I can reach a couple more people that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Want to get involved? The first step into the unknown always seems hard, but it comes with rewards. Volunteering and service can literally take any form that you wish, one that fits into an already hectic life. It can be sharing your voice and opinions with others, donating needed items, donating your time to plan or to decorate, or serving in an official capacity such as being a board member.

Your school needs you, your parents association needs you. As the saying goes, many hands makes light work. If you’ve been wanting to volunteer but have no idea how, please reach out. Please reach out to me, or to any SPA member, or to any other parent who you see volunteering. We would all love to have you.

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