Major: Liberal Studies/Health Science Education
Hometown: Carmichael, CA
“I had always heard good things about CAVE, so my junior year I finally decided to volunteer in a third grade classroom.” That’s how it all started for Sonja, and now she is one of CAVE’s biggest fans. After volunteering for one semester, she was recruited to be a group leader for the program, and now she’s in her second semester as the program coordinator. “As a coordinator, you get to make the program your own. It allows you to be creative.” Sonja supervises five group leaders, all of whom she hopes to guide and inspire. “I learn as much from them as they do from me, and our goal is to insure that volunteers are having a good experience.”
As a freshman, Sonja’s original plan was to apply to the credential program. “I volunteered a lot in high school. I knew I wanted to work with kids. That was my path.” However, her involvement at CAVE has convinced her to pursue a career with a non-profit organization which has a mission similar to CAVE. She has discovered there are many ways to impact the lives of children outside the classroom. She is currently working with at risk girls in a local junior high school as a mentor/role model. “CAVE is a great place to experiment — to explore different interests and career options. I can’t imagine not working with a non-profit similar to CAVE.”
Sonja recognizes the rich opportunities she has as a part of CAVE staff. “Working at CAVE has boosted my GPA, and made me more organized and goal oriented. CAVE’s structure really works for me. I’ve gained confidence, leadership and supervision skills, and am very comfortable with public speaking.” And all of those benefits have been further enriched by her field volunteer experiences. Sonja has been a volunteer for all three immersion programs at CAVE and has been a service-learning volunteer at a local elementary school. However, without hesitation, Sonja says, “The highlight of my college experience was CAVE’s alternate spring break trip to New Orleans to build a house with Habitat for Humanity. It was the best feeling ever! I’m still close with the group I went with — we still hang out.”
Sonja would tell you that the personal gratification she gets from working at CAVE is all the reward she needs. However, others think she deserves more. She was recently named a recipient of the Ron Rohde Memorial Scholarship which honors an outstanding CAVE staff member. Mr. Rohde was a devoted CAVE staffer in the early 1990’s and would heartily approve of Sonja’s selection.
In Sonja’s words:
Sometimes there is a dis-connect between students and the town of Chico. CAVE connects students to the community in such a positive way. We provide role models for so many children and can influence those kids (many who are at-risk) to go to college. They look at us and say, “I could do that.” It’s a way for the community to see that students who live here want to make a difference.