Fulfilling graduation hours with fulfilling volunteer work

By Amy Bowman, Open Arms volunteer

Sanjay R_0263

Sanjay at the delivery desk

Sanjay Ragoonanan is looking to the future. As a junior at Cristo Rey High School, he has high hopes for college, where he wants to study medicine or computer science.

Of course, his college dreams require graduating from high school first, which means fulfilling a certain number of work hours as part of Cristo Rey’s innovative work study program.

That’s how he found Open Arms of Minnesota, where he helps get food deliveries ready for clients living with life-threatening illnesses and holds post at the front entrance, where he never fails to impress by looking dapper in dress shirt, vest and tie.

Although Sanjay completed his required hours already, he has decided to continue volunteering in order to increase his chances of getting into college – and because he enjoys it. “It’s a nice place to volunteer,” said Sanjay. “The interaction that I have with people has really helped me build my communication skills, and I feel so much more comfortable talking to adults than I used to.”

In addition to racking up volunteer hours that will look good on a college application, Sanjay says that he gets a great deal of gratification in being at Open Arms and helping nourish neighbors living with illness. “Every time I walk out the door, I feel good knowing that I’ve helped people,” he said.

Plus, Sanjay gets to enjoy the amazing food. “I don’t know how the chefs and bakers do it, but the food they make is really good,” he said. “Especially the chocolate chip cookies – they’re my favorite.”

Sanjay can be found providing a helping hand and a bright smile at Open Arms for almost eight hours a day Monday through Friday in the summertime and eight hours a week during the school year. Open Arms is fortunate for his help, his optimism and his almost-daily presence in the building.

Sanjay will graduate high school in 2018 and one can only imagine the bright future that’s in store for him.


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