Reach Out! - Linking U. of M. & Community Mentors with Children & Teens

Who We Are: Ben Kaufman

Ben was an engineering undergraduate who volunteered with Reach Out! from fall 1998 Ben at George School in Ypsilanti through his graduation in December 2000. During the 1998-99 school year, he traveled weekly to George Elementary School in Ypsilanti to hands-on science clubs during the school day. In fall 1999, he volunteered at the club at Bryant Community Center in Ann Arbor and, during Spring 2000, at Hikone Recreation Center, also in Ann Arbor. At all three sites, he encouraged participation by his Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity brothers. In fall 2000, he took over the coordination of the Hikone club.
Ben's spring 2001 letter about his Reach Out! experiences:
As an alumnus of the University of Michigan and a graduate of the College of Engineering, I am proud to represent the University while working at General Motors. The College of Engineering has prepared me well for the all of the problems and challenges that arise each day. However, while the knowledge I have gained from listening to lectures and participating in discussions has been important and has helped me succeed, the University of Michigan has many other opportunities for learning and maturing that were equally important to my education. Specifically, I am writing you on behalf of a program that is very special to me, one that needs your support, Reach Out!
While attending the University of Michigan, I had the privilege of being involved with the Reach Out! organization for five semesters. Reach Out! is a science-based volunteer program that challenges and benefits both undergraduate students and young children in the community. At the core of the program is a diverse group of college students who volunteer each week as mentors, promoting learning and presenting a positive role model for disadvantaged children who need our help.
I initially joined the Reach Out1 organization as a mentor in the fall of 1998, my junior year. After having completed two years of my college education, I had learned a great deal from my studies, but something was missing from my college experience. Having joined and taken active roles in a social fraternity, and regularly attended collegiate sporting events, acid-base volcano I was involved in activities outside the classroom. However, I had lived in Ann Arbor for two years and had had little contact with the community outside of the campus. When I learned about the Reach Out! program, I saw an opportunity to not just get involved in the community, but to help others around me, specifically those who were not as well off as me. Volunteering with Reach Out! created a level of joy and sense of accomplishment inside me that I could not find in class work or studying.

The University of Michigan offers countless organizations for students to get involved with, so I know you're wondering what makes Reach Out! different, and why is it so important that as a campus/community we embrace it and support it. The bottom line is relationships. Volunteers who participate with Reach Out! commit to an entire semester of one hour per week instructing, encouraging, and mentoring the same child. Through my experiences with the program, I know that many of the young children we work with come from broken homes, and all of them desperately need attention and encouragement. Through the relationships we create, these kids develop a sense of self-worth, which builds confidence, and who knows how far that might take them in life. Our lessons revolve around science, but the real learning is on the character level.
Ben and friends College-age students involved with the program will also tell you that it has changed their lives. Traveling to some of the poorer neighborhoods in Ann Arbor and getting to know the children that live there can be a very humbling experience. As college students, we spend a great deal of time working to better our own lives and futures, while others are being left behind because they were not given the opportunities many of us were. Through their involvement with Reach Out!, volunteers develop relationships and experience the joy of giving back to their community and helping others.
Reach Out! has positively influenced my life in many ways; however, the future of the program is uncertain. It is essential for the sake of the young children in the community and also college-age students that the program finds a permanent home on campus and the support of its administration. I hope you recognize how valuable the Reach Out! program has been for both the students and children involved. I urge you to support the continuation of this program so that more students and children can benefit.
Benjamin Kaufman
Class of 2000

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Last updated 22 May 01