Omer and his two younger brothers were raised learning that, with vision and hard work, nothing is out of reach. The boys grew up with rich Israeli heritage, among family and friends facing the challenges of immigration. Omer quickly learned that there is great power in building connections with those around you, and great reward in lifting others up.

Omer is a high school junior studying AP Physics and AP Calculus. Starting on the college admissions journey with an end goal of a computer engineering career, it was becoming all too easy for Omer to get lost in the rush of his own aspirations. Had his Guidance Counselor not suggested community service as a way to achieve his college goals, Omer would still be forging down his own path with blinders on. When handed the book of service opportunities in the Guidance Counselors office that day, one option stood out – Kids Club at Southwest YMCA. Reading the description, his little brother came to mind. Omer explains, “In my free time I hang out with my brothers all the time, so I thought doing the same thing with other kids would be a fun opportunity.”

Kids in park

Since he started volunteering with YMCA Kids Club a year ago, life has only grown busier — but Omer continues to make time to give back. Initially motivated by the looming cloud of college applications, his inspiration has shifted with every visit to Kids Club. Today, Omer is entirely motivated by the kids and the lessons they teach him.

High School, Omer explains, is a place where people make snap judgements about one another. Connections between peers fizzle out before they’ve even had a chance to form. Kids Club couldn’t be more opposite. Kids come into the club with open hearts and open minds. Omer describes, “One kids says, ‘Hi’, another says, ‘Hi’ back, and the next thing you know they are best friends, sharing toys and laughter.” Omer laments that connections aren’t that simple at every age. Volunteering with kids has inspired him to challenges himself. Every day is an opportunity to channel his inner child when interacting with his own peers — and he has a handful of new friends to show for it.

The best lesson YMCA Kids Club imparts is the beauty of being yourself. “One little boy, about 3-years-old, comes in all dressed up every time.” Omer elaborates, “He wears a fireman’s costume, and he just absolutely loves showing it off.” This little boy has no fear of judgement, no doubt that he can’t become a fireman someday, and no hesitation in sharing his dream with others.

The spirit Omer see’s in young kids like this one, including his own youngest brother, is a quality Omer hopes to nurture in himself, and all the kids he works with. A reserved child, Omer grew up shy and often afraid to be himself. An older family friend was a source of inspiration for Omer, showing him by example that being uniquely yourself was something to be proud of. However, the message didn’t really click for Omer until his little brother came along.

“Honestly, my little brother is my biggest inspiration. He is 7 years old and he never gives up or backs down.” Watching young kids approach with world with tenacity, determination, and a fearless sense-of-self has given Omer the courage and confidence to be himself, and to connect with people whom he might have dismissed with a snap judgement previously.

Omer hopes to use his time at Kids Club to nurture the dreams of every child. Most of all, he hopes to internalize the lessons the kids teach him, and use the knowledge to make the world a better place.

Giving his time back to the community has taught Omer invaluable lessons. He says, “I think we can all learn something from their approach in acceptance and generosity of spirit.”