Editor’s note: This article was sponsored by the Gates Foundation Discovery Center.
Sushi Baasri is a 15-year-old sophomore at Issaquah High School and a Youth Ambassador at the Gates Foundation Discovery Center. This busy teenager finds time to volunteer at the Issaquah Pool, and has been doing so for three years. As a volunteer he has a variety of tasks, such as leading classes or shadowing swim classes, cleaning around the pool and managing the front desk. This past May, Sushi was recognized as the 2023 Parks and Community Services Youth Leader of the Year by the City of Issaquah.
In a recent conversation with ParentMap, Sushi shared more about his volunteer work and gave some great advice for other teens who want to get involved in their community.
How did you first get involved with the volunteer work you do at the Issaquah pool?
Credit for volunteering at the pool goes to my mom. She was encouraging me to look for volunteering opportunities, and she was the one who talked to the manager at the pool and got me this opportunity.
At first, I was not so keen on volunteering, but decided to give it a try. I actually started loving the work because I got to meet a lot of people, make friends and learn how to teach.
What is your favorite part about volunteering?
My favorite part about volunteering at a pool is getting to interact with people of all ages and abilities. I love seeing the joy on young kids’ faces as they enjoy the water. I also love bantering and getting to know my coworkers. Getting to swim for free was another side benefit!
Have you volunteered anywhere else?
Yes! Around the same time as I started volunteering at the pool, I also started volunteering at my Taekwondo dojang. I had a similar experience there as I did at the pool — starting out helping youth classes and then growing towards leading lessons and organizing events. I have recently started volunteering at a nursing home as well.
How did you become involved in the youth programming initiatives at the Gates Foundation Discovery Center?
My dad works at Microsoft, so we were aware of Bill Gates’ philanthropy work. When I learned about the youth program at his organization, I really wanted to be part of it and I was glad to be selected. It feels great to be part of a cohort that inspires change for teens, at a foundation that impacts our globe.
What advice do you have for other young people who want to get involved in their community?
There are numerous opportunities to get involved in community! You just need to look for them and choose the one you are passionate about. You can even start small and try volunteering to see if you like it.
But once you are comfortable, stick with it. Don't keep jumping from one volunteer job to another. Instead, stick with one place and build relationships. It is not the quantity of places you are involved with that matters, but the quality.
Do not be picky about your tasks as a volunteer. At the pool, I have done tasks from front desk work to cleaning and teaching, and I always learned something.
Also, remember that volunteering is about much more than just getting volunteer hours. My volunteer experience has been not only a chance to give back to the community, but has also helped me build confidence and develop my communication skills.
Finally, it is never too late to start volunteering. Find what you are passionate about and get involved today!
Any advice for parents on how to support their child to get involved with their community?
In this age of devices, it is very natural for kids to drown in screen time. Parents should nudge their kids out of the house. If it were not for my mom pushing me, I would not have ventured into volunteering.
My parents always encourage me to look for volunteer opportunities in many places so that we are exposed to different communities. Parents should work to understand their kids’ interest and celebrate even the little steps they take. My mom used to inquire about volunteer opportunities everywhere she went!
What are your plans and hopes for your future?
Honestly, I have not decided yet. Part of me wants me to become a lawyer like my mom, and part of me wants to venture into the field of technology like my dad.