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Caped Crusader

Each month, Central Penn Parent features a child who is doing great things. They pitch in to make a difference in their schools, places of worship and throughout their communities. They are a blessing to those around them—yet their efforts often go unrecognized. We want to thank them for a job well done! Each child receives a cape and a prize package from our sponsors.

Unlike most kids her age, Kiara Guzman didn’t just want to kick up her feet over summer vacation. Instead, she was looking for any way to keep busy.

So, rather than catching up on TV shows and lounging on the couch, she spent her summer months volunteering at The Mix at Arbor Place in Lancaster.

From open to close, Kiara, 15, was there helping out with anything that she could, from addressing letters to helping prepare the food.

“She’s just always interested in helping others,” said Jeremy Raff, assistant executive director at Arbor Place. “She had asked about volunteering. She was coming in and volunteering every day, helping out with whatever was needed. She was on time every day and really treated it like a real job.”

Arbor Place serves as a place for kids to go after school. Instead of operating as a typical youth hang-out center, it has a structured afterschool program that allows staff to provide intentional activities for kids. On average, it’ll bring in about 100 kids each day after school, according to Raff.

Kiara had been a part of the afterschool program for two years before getting involved with the summer program as a volunteer.

“I knew a lot of the children here from my neighborhood and I was able to help them learn new things,” said Kiara, who is now a sophomore at J.P. McCaskey High School. “I stayed every day and I helped from when they opened to when they closed. It was all worth it because you get a new experience from it.”

Now with school back in session, Kiara still helps out whenever she can. After school, she’ll come in and help anyone with their homework, clean up around the office when needed or even just provide a friendly handshake whenever she greets you.

When she’s not volunteering, Kiara takes part in many of the activities that Arbor Place has to offer, including its dance classes. Her favorite program is “We Rock the Mic,” where students work with facilitators and mentors to create engaging original poetry. At first, Kiara admitted she didn’t think she would like it, but has since changed her tune.

“I know that it has really changed my life around,” Kiara said. “I learned how to express myself better with words, through poetry and spoken word. I like speaking to the public a lot more.”

Through volunteering and the “We Rock the Mic” program, Kiara now knows she wants to continue to work with the public in the future. She credits her time working with Arbor Place for making her more mature and ready for college and beyond.

But it’s the memories she’s made over the last two years that make it all worth it.

“Every day, we come here and see each other, it’s like our second family,” Kiara said. “I think our stories are built every day. We continue to build memories together.”

Christopher Hopkins is assistant editor/web at Central Penn Parent.

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