Volunteer Voices

My grandmother always said, "when you give, you get." When I volunteer with Bookworms at John Eager Howard, I get to share my love of reading. I get smiles, laughs, and even hugs from the kindergartners. A 2003 study showed that children from high-income families are exposed to 30 million more words than children from families on welfare. In just one hour per month, I get to expose the children I read with to more books, more words, and a wider world.

Octavia Shulman - Bookworms volunteer

Like his Diller CSI alumni colleagues, Jon Monfred (Diller CSI ’07-08) remains committed, passionate and engaged, even though immersed in his pre-med studies at the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to focusing on academics, Jon recently completed training to become a certified Emergency Medical Technician to work with the UPenn Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT), which is active seven days a week from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. Jon now works two or more 12-hour shifts each month on MERT alongside medics from the Philadelphia Fire Department. This summer, Jon will return home to Baltimore to manage Delegate Jon Cardin’s re-election campaign. Currently, he keeps tabs on the political arena by overseeing Delegate Cardin’s website, www.joncardin.com.

Jon, a political activist and editor-in-chief of the high school newspaper while at Pikesville High, states that the most valuable lesson he learned from his Diller experience is the importance of recruiting sufficient volunteers to staff a project successfully. He noted that “working as a team and the power of a group” are key to making progress and making a difference. He saw that firsthand with his own Diller community service project, tutoring students in math at Fallstaff Elementary School. During that experience, Jon said he had to quickly readjust the operations of the project because having one volunteer oversee an entire group of young students, rather than providing one-to-one tutoring, wasn’t benefitting the young students being tutored.

In reminiscing about his trip to Israel with his Diller contemporaries, Jon said that he was surprised how much Israel felt like home immediately rather than a foreign country. Although that trip was his first to Israel, Jon felt he belonged there. The Israelis and the Americans “fed off each other’s energy,” according to Jon, both when the Israelis were hosted in Baltimore and then again when the Baltimore group went to Ashkelon. He felt that the bonding between the students of the two countries was one of the best parts of the Diller program even though the Israelis were a little “crazy” at times. Jon enjoyed experiencing Israeli day-to-day life, politics, food, weather, and the beaches during the Israel trip. He found his Israeli family to be warm and welcoming. Noting that even though there is sometimes a language barrier, Jon’s advice to this year Dillers is, “move past any barriers and you will find a way to communicate!” During his visit to Israel, Jon volunteered with other Dillers at an Ethiopian Immigration Center and an assisted living center, both in Ashkelon.

Jon described the entire Diller program as “incredible,” with high praise for the program’s Baltimore leadership in making the experience so valuable. One of the highlights for Jon was that it helped him better understand all the branches of Judaism. “We’re not so different after all,” he remarked and emphasized that being so “sectionalized” in Baltimore doesn’t have to be that way, especially when the Diller experience proved that those who observe differently could become very close friends. The Diller program not only fostered the bonding of the Baltimore and Ashkelon teens, but “brought all parts of Jewish Baltimore together, too.” According to Jon, this was a huge plus of the program.

Reaching out to the current Dillers, Jon advised them to, “take advantage of every moment because you won’t have this chance again. Put your heart and soul into everything, including your project, so that you can make a difference.” In closing, Jon stressed the mutual benefit of community service and encouraged the current Dillers to make it life-long work.

Said Jon: “The problems of the world don’t fix themselves. You have to be the one to address those problems.”

Jon Monfred