As a volunteer, it always feel great to know that you’re making a positive impact. It feels even greater to participate hands-on in work you feel passionate about. That’s why for Annelise, the September Volunteer of the Month, volunteering at NRS swiftly became one of her most anticipated weekly commitments.
Annelise, currently pursuing her master’s degree in nursing at Rush University in Chicago, holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami. Her initial involvement with the runaway and homeless youth community materialized through her dedicated volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity. Witnessing the profound resource challenges that many individuals face during her undergraduate years in Miami, Annelise also contributed to a head start program, collaborating with educators to establish criteria aimed at promoting effective learning and communication skills.
More recently, Annelise’s professional journey led her to an addiction recovery center in Chicago, affording her a firsthand understanding of the consequences of sustained resource deficiencies. Through these experiences, she gained profound insights into the importance of empowering those who have consistently lacked the resources necessary to escape traumatic circumstances.
In spring 2021, Annelise began her volunteering at the National Runaway Safeline (NRS). Amid her search for meaningful ways to invest her free time, Annelise observed the reduced availability of volunteer opportunities due to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although initially apprehensive about the extensive 50+ hour weekday training required, she quickly became wholly devoted to NRS’s mission and vision after her very first class.
Annelise characterizes an average shift at NRS as bustling yet manageable, with fluctuations from quieter days to moments when a dozen individuals simultaneously seek assistance from a live representative. A noteworthy facet of her personal growth has been the adeptness in communicating with young people in a manner that resonates with them, transcending the feeling of canned or corporate responses. She demonstrates flexibility by adjusting her communication style to align with that of the individuals she engages with, ensuring their comfort and engagement.
Annelise holds a deep appreciation for the opportunity to provide solace to LGBTQIA2S+ youth grappling with acceptance issues within their families. Some of these young individuals call NRS under harrowing or abusive circumstances, and Annelise takes pride in equipping them with hope by sharing tailored resources and educational tools designed to support their unique situations. Over time, she has observed a rise in such calls during her tenure as a volunteer.
Annelise’s foremost aspiration for NRS is to witness the expansion of its technological capabilities. She has encountered youth whose sole opportunity to connect with NRS occurred during school, yet many youth-supporting organization websites were regrettably inaccessible on school-provided devices. She underscores the significance of self-care and decompression following challenging conversations with youth, emphasizing that one cannot effectively support others when their own well-being is neglected. She finds solace in the practice of mindfulness through journaling.
To those contemplating volunteering, Annelise encourages prompt action, as procrastination often hinders commitment. Her advice is to take those opportunities that seamlessly integrate into one’s regular schedule, even if it involves modest acts such as neighborhood cleanup. Annelise firmly believes that engaging in a consistent routine of giving back to the community sets in motion a positive, self-perpetuating cycle, eventually leading to more substantial commitments, such as volunteering with NRS.