Skylar Thomas, 17, of Washington, D.C., a senior at Ballou Senior High School, worked as a summer youth camp counselor and tutor to help children from low-income neighborhoods gain skills that will help them become more successful in school and in life. As a young child, Skylar was invited to participate in Reaching New Heights, a program sponsored by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. “My mentor helped change my life by being there for me when I wasn’t focused on school, giving me someone to talk to about adolescent issues other than my mother, and continuously preaching that education is power,” said Skylar.
Three years ago, Skylar was invited by the police department to come back to the program as a summer camp counselor. Growing up, she saw a lot of kids who were always playing video games, who didn’t want to go to school, and who had difficulty completing their homework. “I wanted to change their way of thinking,” she said. Her first job as a volunteer was to help the program director conduct an orientation session for parents to explain the program’s mission and goals and to get permission for the children to participate. Then, on Saturdays and weekday evenings, Skylar helped young students improve their reading skills, taught them to express themselves through writing, bolstered their vocabulary and math skills, and showed them how much fun science can be. She also assisted them with community service projects and accompanied the group on field trips. “I wanted these kids to know and believe there is hope for a positive future, and that I am here to help them achieve their dreams,” said Skylar.