With a smile on his face and a self-assured presence, LSS (now Ascentria Care Alliance) volunteer tutor Herlis Montalvan commented, “Volunteering helps me and it helps the students. We’re both learning at the same time and volunteering has helped me to mature and heal”.
Herlis never knew his parents as they passed away when he was young. At the age of 13, when the aunt and uncle who cared for him also passed away and his elder sisters were unable to take him in, Herlis decided to make the journey from Honduras to the United States. He rode atop trains through Mexico and travelled on foot through the desert. Throughout his journey he always felt that God was on his side despite his hardship. Eventually, he was picked up by Border Patrol and spent a year in a Texas shelter where he felt trapped, frequently cried and missed his mom and dad. After one year in the shelter, Herlis was transferred to the LSS Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM) program where he has learned to appreciate the love of a family, the benefit of education and the value and power of empathy.
Today Herlis is studying criminal justice at Quinsigamond Community College with plans to join the Navy after graduation. Herlis wants to give back to the people and the country that has given him so much help since he left Honduras. In addition to his studies, he volunteers as a tutor in the URM program twice a week, helping others from Guatemala and Honduras to complete their homework, increase their English proficiency and improve their reading skills.
Volunteering is not an easy concept for many of the children arriving from Central America. It is not a part of their culture. These children have fled poverty, abuse and persecution and have spent their whole lives trying to survive. Herlis has not only been able to embrace the concept of “giving back” but has put it into action. He demonstrates all that can be achieved with hard work, patience and above all, faith. He is smart, confident, encouraging and dedicated.
Herlis is a star. He is a volunteer.
“I am very impressed with Herlis, both as a volunteer and a young man. He uses such care and sensitivity while working with each of our youth. It’s refreshing to hear his motivation behind his decision to serve. He has a lot to offer the younger students as he is an example of success for them.”
- Kristen Penkala URM/DCS Community Coordinator