Hi! My name is Raquel Pointer, and I am interning with Preston Taylor Ministries this semester as a part of my coursework as a graduate student at Vanderbilt University in the Learning, Diversity, and Urban Studies Program. As such, I work with the middle school students on Monday and Thursday nights, as middle school is the grade range that appeals to and entertains me the most. I think it is fairly common for people to come into a volunteer situation with a mindset that says, “I am here to help these kids, who are less advantaged than I am.” What you never bargain for, however, is the way in which the students with which you work change, affect, and impact your life in ways you never could have imagined.
I came into this internship with a love for students, a general feeling of agreement with PTM’s principles, and a sense of detachment from the program, simply because I did not really know any of the students. I was surprised when this did not last for long. In many ways, the students made me love them—their zeal and excitement for life, their curiosity about life and the Lord, and their keen intelligence all interest and amaze me on a regular basis. Just being a part of their lives restores to me a different and fresher perspective on the world.
I never bargained for all of the ways in which I would become invested in the lives of the students at PTM—I often find myself praying that I can be the kind of mentor and role model for them that I need to be in order to fulfill my purpose in this placement. The thing that has encouraged and challenged me the most as a result of this placement is the way in which this position calls me to fulfill different roles at different times, which requires a higher level of commitment than I ever could have imagined initially. As my time at Preston Taylor continues, I found my mindset shifting from being that of the teacher to that of being one who has knowledge from which students can learn and who, in turn, learns and grows just as much from interacting with them. I have found a new way to experience and share God’s love and a new meaning of what it means to be a servant as a result of my time volunteering at this site.