By: Carolyn Womelsdorf

I was raised in the Midwest, in a minister’s home. In the 40’s and 50’s a pastor’s salary was minimal and did not afford luxuries. I graduated from high school in 1958 and I wanted to go to college to further my studies, but there were no financial means to do so. Government assistance and school loans were not available at that time, so my parents found a college that offered a student work-program on campus to help pay my tuition, board and room. My family, nor myself had the means to pay the remainder of what would be needed. Someone, who to this day is anonymous, donated a monthly amount to my Dad specifically for my schooling. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1962 with so much gratitude to this unknown donor who had never revealed their identity.

Ever since, I’ve enjoyed giving of my time as a volunteer. I was able to spend 12 plus years as a chaperone with the Battle Ground High School music department, education offices and other areas of need in the district. As a young woman, I had lived a very sheltered life, but my involvement with the music department and getting to know so many high school students on a one-on-one basis opened my eyes to view other people in a non-judgmental way and changed my perspective. The experience gave me compassion toward people and afforded me a way to “mother” many children outside of my own. I learned to never pre-judge a person based on initial impressions until you know them and have listened to their story.

Even though I was volunteering my time, I was the one on the receiving end because of the vulnerability of these teenagers and willingness to let me be a part of their lives; it enriched my life and made me a better person. The person who anonymously made it possible to go to college left my heart open to “pay it forward.” I encourage you to find a way to give of yourself whether financial or in some other way. It pays you in rewards that are forever!

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