On the first day of her freshman year, Suncoast Polytechnical High School student Erika Echegaray faced a decision. The school requires its students to accumulate 100 volunteer hours before graduation, and she was trying to decide how to best earn the hours. She knew she loved working with children, so she began searching for the right fit.
She discovered an opportunity on You’dBePerfectForThis.org, which was seeking volunteers to help teach an art class to children with autism at Sarasota Coastal Academy. Artistically inclined herself, she says the opportunity immediately stood out.
“I love working with kids,” says Echegaray, now a sophomore. “I thought it would be different working with different kinds of kids, and it was a new experience for me.”
The class is run through Face Autism, an organization that provides sensory-friendly activities and classes for children with autism and support and referral services to their families.
The class is designed to help the children express themselves and strengthen their imaginations in a fun and safe atmosphere. Projects help improve flexibility in thinking and cater to each child to stimulate his or her senses.
“I think it’s something maybe they want to do,” she says. “Most kids like doing art, but even if they don’t, they can just have fun with their friends. These kids are just fun, and they’re a joy; I love them so much.”
Echegaray loves the opportunity to work with the students, and she wishes more people her age would get involved as volunteers.
“It’s a good experience in life to do this,” she says. “If you’ve never experienced working with kids like this, then I think you should do it.”
BY THE NUMBERS
7 to 12 — Age range of students
2 — The number of years Erika Echegaray has volunteered at Face Autism
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