By DEBORAH ANN TRIPOLDI
Amit Kundra, 17, of Montclair is a junior at Newark Academy in Livingston and is currently spending his semester in Washington, D.C., volunteering his time helping underprivileged kids. In a semester-long program called SEGL (The School for Ethics and Global Leadership), Kundra and 23 other students from around the country have been in Washington since January living on Capitol Hill and attend classes on civics, ethics, political philosophy and putting it into effect.
In this series we highlight a hometown person who has given freely of their time to help people, animals or the environment. To suggest a person or an organization for this series, email firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
What are some of your volunteering duties?
This semester, I have volunteered at a program called Books and Basketball. Every Wednesday, we teach basketball for a half hour, and then tutor the kids in reading for a half hour.
What age group do you tutor?
At Books and Basketball the kids have been second and third graders, however I have volunteered at Succed2gether in Montclair, and have helped with kids ages K through 8.
What inspires you to volunteer?
I’m inspired to volunteer because I live in a place where I can see how privileged of a life I am living, in stark contrast with some who live in the same town as me. I am compelled to do what I can to help fix these problems. I also am inspired by the kids.
What have you learned volunteering?
I have learned that you can never underestimate the effect that you can have on someones life. Developing one-on-one bonds with a specific student, and teaching them something, or even providing them with room to just talk and be themselves is something that seems trivial, but can truly affect their lives in the most positive way. I have also learned that volunteering is hard, especially with underprivileged kids who don’t really have a filter yet, and that even when you hear things that might throw you off, you always need to be on top of your game and act like nothing’s wrong.
What’s your favorite part of volunteering?
My favorite part of volunteering is right at the beginning, when the kids line up to play basketball. It is so fulfilling to see the kids be so excited to see us and to be a part of a program that we run. That is the moment when I feel like I am having an impact, however small.
How do you feel at the end of a day after you volunteered?
At the end of a day when I volunteer, I feel tired but satisfied. I feel truly happy for the time that I’ve spent and I never have any regrets or second thoughts about doing what I’m doing.
How does your family feel about your volunteering?
My family loves it. My sister was very invested in volunteering with Succed2Gether, and my mom worked at a Community Health Center in West Orange as a medical doctor for a while, so my family is fairly dedicated to service.
What do you do in your free time?
I love to read, write, play sports with my friends and play music.
Are you interested in becoming a teacher and if so what would you like to teach?
I’m not sure if I want to be a teacher, but I am definitely concerned with the state of education in America right now. I would like whatever work I do to try and improve that in some way.
What are you doing in Washington right now?
We have frequent meetings with people such as John Bolton, Chief of Staff for George W. Bush, and George Moose, former U.S. ambassador to Benin and Senegal. We have presented our work in the form of policy recommendations to the U.S. and others to the U.S. Department of State. The goal of this experience is to learn more about how to make effective ethical decisions, and also to become deeply involved in the workings of our country here in D.C.