Sophomore volunteers with autistic children, Jewish youth

By Allison Hamburger

 

After weeks of rehearsal, Eli stood on stage, terrified. Instead of saying his lines and telling a joke, Eli didn’t say a word.

But that was fine for the audience. In fact, they were extremely proud of him.

Roxanne Swedelson ’13 had worked with Eli, who has autism, once a week after school in an acting class at The Friendship Circle, an organization that helps children with special needs and their families.

Just being onstage showed Eli’s progress compared to years before, Swedelson said. She works with about 10 autistic kids and 20 other volunteers, doing activities, art and acting projects with them.

“I’ve learned so much about how to communicate with them, and after you do that it’s just so easy to see them as normal children just different,” she said.

Swedelson started volunteering with Friendship Circle through another community program she works at, Kehillat Israel Tzedakah Teens, which is organized by her temple. Swedelson works on one of three boards.

Swedelson signed up to volunteer at Friendship Circle while at a social action fair looking into organizations for her KITT board.

She is also president of a chapter of B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, an international Jewish organization

BBYO raises money for different charities each year through a variety of fundraising events, including bake sales, drives and other events. This year they donated to Doctors Without Borders.

Swedelson started out as treasurer for the chapter and won an award for raising the most money at a single fundraiser.

“It really got me involved and I realized how much of a difference I could make within the organization, so I decided to run for president,” she said.

Swedelson is currently in her second term as president. She handles programming, membership, fundraising, running meetings and representing the chapter at a congress with the organization.

Swedelson enjoys both the financial and hands-on aspects of philanthropy.

It can be frustrating to hear people say they are only involved in community service to put it on their college applications, she said.

“I do these things because I love these things and if I get into college, you know, that’ll be nice,” she said.

Swedelson also plans to work on a farm in Morocco this summer.

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