Name: Teresa Huang
Day Job: Primarily a television writer, also dabbles in short fiction, sci fi romance, acting, and short film producing
Organization of choice: WriteGirl, a creative writing and mentoring nonprofit that pairs professional women writers with teen girls to explore the power of words and writing.
I volunteer once a week as an individual mentor. My mentee and I talk about her writing and I guide her with writing projects she is working on outside of school. She is prolific! She’s already written a graphic novel, short fiction, and started a blog. It’s been such an inspirational experience for me because she has no fear. She empowers me and reminds me to ignore that raging inner critic that I have as a grown up.
I also volunteer once a month with the core mentoring program, where I help with workshops that cover multiple genres, like fiction, poetry, screenwriting, and songwriting. Sometimes we hold the workshops somewhere special. We did a character monologue workshop at the Academy of Arts and Sciences. It was amazing to take the girls into that venue and see them draw inspiration from the environment.
I volunteer with about one hundred other volunteers, who come from a variety of different occupations. There are screenwriters, technical writers. That variety in our volunteer base gives texture to the organization. We reach about one hundred and fifty WriteGirls a year through the monthly workshops.
It’s so refreshing to watch the girls let their voices shine during a workshop. Recently, WriteGirl held a songwriting workshop, which was really popular. The girls spent the day writing lyrics in different ways, expressing what they want to say, deciding when to rhyme, and then professional songwriters came in to guide them as they finished up. One of the professionals sang my mentees song out loud and the excitement of hearing her work coming to life was something I don’t think she’ll ever forget.
To volunteer, I give up nothing, absolutely nothing. Volunteering is such a gift that gives back to me tenfold.
And in return, I’ve gained the experience of working with my mentee, which has easily been one of the best parts. She is going to be a senior next year, and I can already see how sad I will be when she moves on. 100% of WriteGirls go to college, and through the program, they gain confidence, skill, and the feeling of empowerment that makes them ready to move on to the next phase of their lives.
From one volunteer to another, dive in. The more you get involved, the more you are going to get back. That works for all volunteering. Don’t worry about results. Just being there for these girls is what really matters and what really gives confidence to express themselves.