How Beauty and the Beast Helped Me Reconnect With My Favorite Volunteer Organization
In case you haven't been to Sweety High in the last week or so, let me get you up to speed: We've been living for all things Beauty and the Beast!
(Beauty and the Beast via Walt Disney Pictures)
But there is one Beauty and the Beast-related experience in particular that truly made a mark on me. I had an opportunity to check out a Disney-sponsored presentation put on by four middle school students. The students were alums of Young Storytellers, a program (backed by Ryan Murphy, of all people!) that gives kids the opportunity to craft original stories and see them brought to life on stage and sometimes film, thanks to one-on-one mentoring.
The children (specially picked to partake in this Beauty and the Beast opportunity) spent the day on the Disney Studios lot, watched an advanced screening of the live-action Beauty and the Beast and worked with their mentors to write short stories based on supporting characters from the movie. Then, these stories were given to professional content creators at Tongal to produce digital shorts.
So, why was this especially meaningful to me? Well, I live in Los Angeles, California, and three years ago, my good friend Jackie and I were asked by a friend if we wanted to participate in a 2.5-month YST mentorship at a school in Brentwood, a section of L.A.
Jackie is a publicist and I am a writer, so naturally, the two of us have creative juices flowing at all times. We also both love theater—and I think kids are amazing. We couldn't think of a better way to use our spare time for a good cause.
Attending this Beauty and the Beast presentation at the beautiful, famed El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California, really took Jackie and I back to that special time in our life. There's nothing more fulfilling than being able to use your own knowledge and skills to make someone happy or feel like they've completed a life goal.
Each week I spent with my mentee, our relationship and trust grew. She was so much more forthcoming with her screenplay ideas—in fact, she became so enthusiastic and overflowing with new concepts that sometimes it was hard to keep up! She went from being a bit hesitant to work with me, to giving me the hugest hugs I will never forget. I got to know all about her reptile collection, we shared a commonality with our vibrantly colored legging collection and we were both incredibly passionate individuals!
By the end of the program (which went by incredibly fast), I felt like I'd made a huge difference in her life. Seeing the look on her face when the actors performed her play was a feeling unlike any other I'd experienced prior.
Let's be honest, volunteering in a program so concentrated like YST is quite a commitment. And perhaps it's not for everyone. But it's just one example of how doing volunteer work of any sort can benefit anyone's life. I made so many new friends, I improved my communication and leadership skills—and most importantly, doing good deeds can only empower you and make you feel better about yourself. Revisiting this experience makes me eager to help others. Hopefully it's inspired you to do the same!
If you're in need of some additional positivity in your life, check out THESE other stories about Sweety High staff's volunteer experiences.