This article was provided by the Student Service Board and was written last year about OHS alumna Cherry Ng.
Organized By: Elena Gonzalez
Hi! I’m Cherry, a senior, resident eighteen-year-old, and fourth-year OHSer. Even though I live in the cold wilds of Toronto (Canada), I am writing all this in a pool of sunshine at the hospital where I volunteer. For the first time this year, I am wearing a sundress and sandals—albeit, with a coat overtop.
My hobbies are doing homework, writing papers, solving math problems….JUST KIDDING! Though I enjoy my academic life, I am thoroughly more invested in debate, creative writing (don’t ask to see my poetry), and knitting (all I need are grandkids to become a grandmother).
What kind of service do you do and how does it help the environment, economy, etc.?
I’ve volunteered at several places over my high school career. Two in particular stand out in my memory: working at the Geneva Centre for Autism and Dr. Wen’s zebrafish lab for drug discovery at St. Michael’s Hospital. The service areas, social and medical, I work in may sound dichotomous, but I have found that the two meld together. Working at the Geneva Centre inspired my current project at the lab—creating a zebrafish model of autism—and working at the lab has inspired me to continue in patient-care.
What inspired you to pursue your service?
I started volunteering for children with autism in grade school. I began with Clara, a six year old from church, and we spent Saturday mornings flipping CD covers together. I would read “Puff the Magic Dragon” (twenty-seven times!) to her and hold her hands as she bounced on the mini-trampoline to my earsplittingly beautiful rendition of “Five Little Monkeys”. After Clara transitioned to full-time school, I wanted to continue my work in the autism field, so I began volunteering at the Geneva Centre for Autism, which helped me land a job at the Wen lab.
What are some of your daily tasks?
Days at the Geneva Centre are structured: we begin the day at 9 to debrief and pick up the children at 9:30. Much of our morning is spent in structured play and most afternoons are spent outside at different playgrounds, pools, and fairgrounds in Toronto.
I have variable tasks at the lab that differ day to day. I’m currently working on cloning the CHD8 vector into zebrafish larvae, and have been learning different molecular techniques to do so.
What is the one thing you most enjoy about your tasks?
One of the kids I work with at the centre absolutely loves singing! I enjoy prompting him to sing and singing along.
What is the most challenging part of your service/job (you can pick one specific type of service you do, or pick more than one – this applies to all of the questions)?
Volunteering at both the lab and the centre can be exhausting. I once worked with a child who asked, “Why must I hold on to your hand?” He answered himself saying, “because I can get run over!” The most challenging part of my job at the centre is making sure the kids are safe and content, while the most challenging part at the lab is understanding all parts of the experiments and obtaining data.
Do you have any advice for students pursuing service similar or identical to yours?
Put yourself out there! If you are passionate about serving in the field you are applying for, you will enjoy working. Contact the people in charge, introduce yourself, and make sure you have a good cover letter and resume!
The following pictures are:
- Me at Dr. Wen’s farm
- a llama (from his farm)
- the whole lab together