By Amanda Hoffman
Since he first started volunteering with HandsOn Broward, 17-year old Raul Garcia knew that he wanted to lead a project. “Becoming a project leader was my ambition from the beginning.”
Raul was primarily interested in finding a volunteer organization with leadership opportunities because he’s trying to get into the Air Force Academy. The military has always attracted Raul. “I like the sense of leadership and the sense of dedication. The focus, the leadership.”
After volunteering with Feeding South Florida, Raul knew he was ready to lead a project of his own. He got in touch with the Not My Kids organization, a mentoring program for at-risk youth in Broward County and led a project for them.
“The first time I went there were about six girls in the room and they were doing all sorts of projects. It was kind of like a summer camp but it was also a mentoring program. The day I went, the girls had a project writing letters to women in the military. So, because of my interest in the military and my knowledge about it, I went in an explained it to the girls.”
Even though it was slightly nerve-wracking for Raul to lead his own project, he was cool, calm and collected. “I’ve led a lot for my schools. I’ve been involved in student government and I’m a freshman coordinator.”
Raul is working hard to accomplish his dreams. He already has 200 service hours, and he has applied to be a member of the Civil Air Patrol, an organization similar to JROTC, but it has its own rankings and members can go on mock military missions. Since his interest in the military sparked, Raul has lost over 50 pounds.
However, getting admission into the Air Force Academy is a long, tough road. “In some ways, it’s harder to get into than Harvard. I have to get Senator and Congress recommendation letters.”
There are a lot of people that want to see Raul succeed. “I get most of my support from my mom. She wants to see me get my hours. Most of the applicants have 2,000 hours.”
For new project leaders, Raul offers this advice: “be ready going into your project. Know what you’re coordinating. If you go in and the people you’re leading know more about it than you do, they’re not going to let you lead them. Just know what you’re doing.”
Thank you, Raul and good luck with your dreams!