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Student Volunteer Spends Summer in School

While most high school students spend their summers relaxing, going on vacation or working, Riverside High School rising junior Randy Mejia spends his volunteering with students in the Peaceful Planet program at George Watts Montessori Elementary--and has done so for the past three summers.

“I feel like I couldn’t do this program without him,” said Watts teacher Carolina Musawwir. “He’s here before I am and I never have to give him instructions. He knows what needs to be done and just does it.”

Mejia starts volunteering for the program before the school year is over.  As soon as he is done with all his final exams at Riverside, he heads over to Watts to assist Musawwir with setting up the Peaceful Planet program. Mejia has done everything from help plan and create materials to setting up the classrooms. 

While the program is in session he helps with carpool and bus duty, prepares and distributes snacks for the students, and assists the students in the classroom with their reading and assignments.

“For someone his age, he has an amazing ability to have a global view of the program,” said Watts principal Patti Crum. “He has a very clear vision and is focused and dedicated to both the students and the teachers.”

Peaceful Planet is a five-week summer camp for rising second and third graders at Watts. It provides academic support for literacy through a curriculum that supports the school’s Montessori philosophy. It is supported by Duke University’s Office of Durham and Regional Affairs through a Duke Doing Good in the Neighborhood grant.

A former student at Watts Elementary, Mejia started helping at the school three years ago when they needed help with a garden that provided fresh vegetables for the students in the summer program. 

“I am the oldest of my siblings, so I am very comfortable working with younger kids.  Plus I enjoy being with the students and helping them with their reading,” said Mejia. According to Crum, he is an excellent role model for the students.

They call him “Uncle Randy.”