For the community

MVHS students share about the community service that they do outside of school


Senior Iona Xia performs the Ruan at a senior center. Photo courtesy of Iona Xia | Used with permission

Melody Cui and Vincent Zhao

The moment her eyes began watering, she knew her allergies had kicked in. It was junior Jennifer Long’s first time at Mini Cat Town, a neonatal kitten shelter she had begun volunteering with, and due to her allergies, she was stuck behind the front desk welcoming guests for her first few shifts. Now, two years later, her allergies have dampened, and she looks forward to her bi-monthly three hour shifts at the shelter cleaning the pens and feeding the kittens. 

“The first time I was there, I was literally dying, like mentally and physically,” Long said. “But then later on, I really enjoyed spending time with the cats — they’re tiny little creatures [and] are so cute.”

Long finds that the kittens provide her with a sense of companionship. Even though the kittens are often adopted quickly, she cherishes whatever time she has to spend with them. Playing and taking care of the kittens also distracts her from school and academics, especially after “failing a test,” creating a relaxing atmosphere for her to ground herself in. 

“The friendships I’ve made [are] not only human friendships [but also] interactions with the kittens,” Long said. “If you hang out with the kittens so much, they form a little special bond with you.” 

While Long uses community service as a way to destress, senior Ryan Hung leverages it as an opportunity to pursue what he is passionate about, teaching computer science at underprivileged middle schools for his Boy Scouts Eagle Project. Although it was logistically challenging to transport volunteers and set up the class format, the first few classes went smoothly, with volunteers getting to know the students and tailoring their curriculum to what students wanted to learn. 

Graphic by Vincent Zhao

Through this project, Hung has been able to help students develop their interest in computer science as well as his own. Over summer break, Hung recalls helping one of his students code their own version of Flappy Bird and guiding another student through the world of AI. Hung values doing something that he genuinely enjoys while also benefiting his community, finding that the project taught him a lot about organization and teaching.  

“I got to learn a lot more about [the kids],” Hung said. “Helping them go through [the problems] reminded me of myself when I was learning [to code], and it felt good to be giving them the opportunity that they might not have had.” 

Senior Iona Xia also finds community service rewarding, expressing how playing with the Polar Bears music group has expanded her perspective by allowing her to see “people who are often overlooked in society,” and giving her a chance to “embrace them and understand their point of view.” The music group performs at senior centers and homeless shelters twice a month, exhibiting a variety of instruments, including Xia’s specialties, ukulele, piano and the Chinese instrument, ruan, and ends every performance with the “Polar Bear Song.” 

“When I get to go into a homeless [shelter] and I get to see what they’re going through every night, it really puts what I’m doing in perspective,” Xia said. “[We] perform music for them in order to let them know that they have a group of people supporting them and to help them feel more joy.” 

Through their service, Long, Hung and Xia have found ways to use their unique talents and passions to help others. In the process, they say they have gained valuable skills and experiences that have enriched their lives. 

“I think that service comes in a lot of forms,” Hung said. “Just being able to do any form of community service was really enlightening, and I encourage people to do more to do more kinds of community service.”