My wall is decorated with handmade drawings and cards, mementos from the Family Giving Tree, a holiday event I host every December with my Youth Advisory Council for the 250 underprivileged kids at the Starbird Youth Center. The kids used to receive holiday presents through the city. Now, despite city budget cuts, I wanted the kids to continue to have the opportunity to experience a spirited holiday season. I spent months finding adults and corporations to donate the sweatshirts, roller skates, and MP3 players on the kids’ wish lists. The event itself involved gifts, art, food, and a raffle. I always insisted on managing the arts and crafts room to interact directly with the kids. Most of the kids ended up giving me artwork they had created. There were cards embellished by cutout hearts, snowmen, and penguins (and even a tissue paper hat card made by one particularly ambitious kid), with most of them including phrases such as ‘Kavya is my Santa,’ ‘You’re my best friend,’ and ‘Kavya is nice.’ While I have provided resources to students and communities in need of education support through Givology and have helped raise $500,000 for the March of Dimes, I have learned the most from this experience because I discovered my love for service. Young kids can easily forget people, but I know I will not forget about them. Although the event only lasts 4 hours each year during the holiday season, I know that the cards on my wall will provide me with a lifetime of memories.

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