My Volunteer Story

I was ten-years-old and the type of person who always wanted to “test the waters” before I started something new. Volunteering at E-Karate for the first time felt like a big decision beforehand, but it ended up being a decision that I’ve never regretted since.

My mom had friends who had kids in the E-Karate program. After hearing more about it, she convinced me that I would enjoy it so we shadowed a class to see. I was 10 years old didn’t understand why the kids seemed a little different than me, so I asked my mom about them. I didn’t know what special needs were at the time.

She whispered, “Honey, they’re just different, they’re not any less than you or me, but they just have a different way of thinking that takes more patience and effort.” I remembered feeling confused, trying to imagine what it would feel like to be in their shoes—different. I was shy and uneasy at first.

After a few years, I went from being a student to a coach for the other kids.

I didn’t really notice myself change during my first few years at E-Karate, but when I look back, it’s so clear to me that the countless relationships I’ve built with kids different than myself, along with all the amazing role models and mentors I’ve met, have morphed me into a new person. I’ve learned empathy, compassion, and leadership. I even think differently than I used to.

Now in college at San José State University, I see the value of those qualities. I meet tons of new people, introducing myself, and making other people feel comfortable—I learned that from E-karate because that’s definitely not my natural personality! I’ve learned to enjoy people’s differences and the uniqueness about everyone I meet—I learned that from E-Karate too.

Coaching kids has taught me how to be open, out-going, and communicative. I love looking for more volunteer opportunities with chances to get involved and help people. For example, I became Volunteer Supervisor for eighty high school students at the Veteran’s Hospital in Palo Alto, assisting nurses and as tour guides in the summer of 2013. Now, during the school year I assist at Jordan Middle School with the after-school homework center by tutoring and assisting librarians.

I can’t even tell you all that E-Karate has done for me as an individual. If you are ever interested, don’t hesitate to get involved. E-Karate has become part of my story. Who knows? It might become part of yours too.

-Richard Struck