Meet September’s Volunteer of the Month

Posted by on Sep 5, 2017 in Featured Stories, Volunteer |

Leah Gage, left, hangs out with a teen and fellow volunteer Paige Reynolds, right.

This month’s outstanding volunteer is Leah Gage, who joined Playtime as a social work intern for the 2015-2016 school year. After that she became a regular Play Ranger at D.C. General Family Shelter in the Teen Night program.

“Leah truly embodies what it means to be a Teen Night volunteer,” said Michelai Lowe, Site Manager for the Preteen and Teen Night programs. “If there was a phrase that had greater value than ‘going above and beyond’ that would describe Leah’s time spent with the teens at D.C. General. She is patient when boundaries are tested, she is resourceful when the teens have specific needs they don’t have access to, and she’s creative. Leah takes action immediately when the teens share hopes and dreams about their future! She’s a great mentor and has an incredible talent of keeping our teens encouraged!”

Why did you initially get involved in Playtime?

While completing my Master’s in Social Work (MSW) program at Catholic University, I learned about the impacts of homelessness and trauma on young people. A number of my colleagues and professors mentioned the work of Playtime Project, and I began my volunteering as an MSW intern with the teen program. I’ve since completed my internship, but remain actively involved as a volunteer with the teen program.

How has volunteering with Playtime affected you?

Working with teens is a delicate balance that’s not easy to maintain. Their trust is not easily won, especially our teens who have experienced all kinds of trauma and instability in their lives. The other volunteers and I build unique relationships with each of the teens in our program. We’re not parents, we’re not teachers, but we do see them at their home, which for a lot of them is a big deal – many of our teens do not share the fact that they live at DCG with their teachers and schoolmates. It’s something I know I and my fellow teen night volunteers take very seriously, and something I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Share a memorable moment as a Playtime volunteer.

Last spring a fellow volunteer and myself worked with one young lady who had her heart set on getting into Duke Ellington School of the Arts for singing. I discovered then how hard some of these teens work, and how important our role as volunteers can be. We helped her get to what seemed like countless auditions and call backs that would be daunting for any adult, and especially so for a young person living with the realities and instabilities of homelessness. But she and her mother were committed as ever, and she worked hard to meet all the many requirements. She was not selected to attend the school, but she was and remains undeterred. I couldn’t have been more proud of her when, later that year, she got up and sang at a student open mic in front of a whole room of strangers when we went on a college visit to the University of the District of Columbia.

What else do you want people to know about your work with Playtime?

We can always use more Teen Night volunteers! (Especially men and people of color!)

Learn how you can be a Play Ranger, too!