From far to near: students at SPF are amazing volunteers


Emily Wyrwa

Nearly every high school student has heard that they need to be doing more community service. Whether it be for the sake of their college applications, or for the joy that comes with helping others, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the idea of volunteerism. Some students log their hours and move on, while others find helping their communities to be one of the most critical aspects of their lives.
Seniors Neena Lomuscio and Gabrielle Klausner have each done some outstanding volunteer work during their time at SPFHS, serving as positive examples of students’ potential to help the world.

Neena Lomuscio

Senior Neena Lomuscio volunteers with Refugee Assistance Partners (RAP), a local multi-faith organization that provides aid and support to refugees who have recently arrived in the United States. 
Lomuscio works with children who are in need of many services, ranging from learning English to helping with schoolwork, to being entertained while their parents receive aid. 
Over the summer, Lomuscio worked for the International Rescue Committee (IRC). She worked with IRC on their summer program for children who have recently arrived in the United States, where she led fun activities to help the children prepare for school. 
“I was frustrated by the way that refugees and immigrants, in general, are treated in the U.S, as if they all wanted handouts and would be a burden on our country,” Lomunscio said. “In reality, refugees are the most motivated people and benefit the communities they become part of, and I wanted to do whatever small bit I could to make it a smoother process.”
Lomuscio feels that the most rewarding part about volunteering is the gratitude she receives from the people she helps. She thinks the hardest part is when families have to move to other places in the country, away from the expenses of living in New Jersey. 
Lomuscio’s favorite story to tell about her experiences is about a little girl she worked with who recently arrived in the U.S. She spoke no English and had a fear of dogs. One volunteer always brought her mini poodle to entertain the kids, and the little girl was outright petrified. She started crying once she saw the dog and ran to hide when the dog took a tiny step closer. 
“I pet the dog in front of her to calm her down, but we still had to go in another room,” Lumuscio said. “The next week, though, she took my hand and bent down to pet the dog, clutching me the whole time. It was so sweet how she overcame her fear.”
Lomuscio hopes that other students continue to involve themselves in the community, for volunteer work does not only benefit others but provides a unique perspective on life and the satisfaction of doing something for the greater good. 
“I think a lot of people complain about the way things are in the world, but don’t know where to begin when it comes to making a difference because the problem seems too big,” Lomuscio said. “If more people took just a little bit more action to help others, the world would be a better place.”

Gabrielle Klausner 

Senior Gabrielle Klausner has been volunteering for the Specialized Care Unit at the Children’s Specialized Hospital since her junior year. She took the reigns in leading weekly Recreational Therapy sessions for the 46 medically-fragile children who call the Children’s Specialized Hospital home. She also collected over 200 new books to start a new library in the Specialized Care Unit. 
Klausner found it challenging to see where she belonged in SPFHS, and felt empowered to pursue opportunities outside of school. This goal led her to the Children’s Specialized Hospital. 
“Something that I find so rewarding is to put your energy into something and to know at the end of the day that you have made a positive impact… even if it’s just seeing like one of those kids at the hospital like even though they don’t necessarily talk sometimes like when you see them, they know who I am, so their face lights up…” Klausner said.
Since the children at the Children’s Specialized Hospital are permanent residents in the hospital, their only interactions are with their nurses and with the volunteers. Klausner finds it gratifying to be able to develop relationships with the children.
Klausner remembers in December, the seating arrangement for Specialized Therapy was a little different; rather than being at the helm of a semicircle, Klausner and the children sat in one great circle together as she read the book about how to build the biggest snowman. 
“We were all together. I just remember it being such a beautiful moment I was sitting and one of the kids would help me turn the page…. It was a simple moment, but I think it was so powerful for me because just sitting in that circle, just it felt like everyone was all together in the best way that we can be,” Klausner said. 
Klausner hopes that other students focus on pursuing their passions in helping their community. 
“I would say, pursue what you’re passionate about because when you do something with love, you’ll get the best outcome,” Klausner said.