Ben Pryess Reflects on Volunteer Experiences

I’ve often strolled out of an Urban Initiatives early morning practice and though to myself “well, that’s going to be the best part of my day.” As a second year medical students who spends infinite hours studying, maybe that’s not saying much. On the other hand, I can promise you that my diverse band of fellow coaches will agree.

You see, at each practice I’m deeply rewarded. I laugh (really hard), I’m offered new perspective and taught lessons about my career and my own life, and if I’m lucky, I learn a new dance move or handshake. The kids, who in all their unique glory bring a joy that only children can bring to life, make all this possible. As much as I try to offer up my interest, encouragement, teaching, etc. to each of them, the kids always find a way to give more back to me. Yeah yeah, I know that cliché’s been around forever but there’s no other way to say it. My sincere hope is that I am contributing to their lives in a fraction of what they’re contributing to mine.

As for Urban Initiatives as an organization, I don’t have to hope. I know they’re making a meaningful impact in the lives of these children. I’ve seen the grades go up – and kids proudly show me their report cards. I’ve seen the apples and granola bars gobbled up – in an understanding that they’re better nutrition than chips and pop. And most of all, I’ve seen the way the children smile as they chase the ball down the field – and later tell me “that was fun.”

So what’s the point? To be concise, you’re missing out if you’re not involved. If you can help coach, do it. If you can’t, consider helping out financially or in another capacity. It’s worth it.

Ben Preyss
Volunteer, 2nd Year UIC Medical Student, & Schweitzer Fellow

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