Memoirs of a Former VolunTeen


Written by Mehvish Khan, Thinker.

When I walked into the big red building in the “developing” part of Austin three years ago, I was a little apprehensive—I didn’t know what to expect. A fresh-faced fifteen-year-old and newly-appointed VolunTeen, I wanted to knock out some school-mandated volunteer hours in a seemingly laid-back setting. Thinkery seemed like the perfect fit.

Three years later, I’m no longer a scared teenager. I’m now an adult who can problem solve creatively and communicate effectively thanks to my time as a Thinkery VolunTeen. Oh, and did I mention? I’m now a Thinker—a member of Thinkery’s Direct Service Staff!

Memoirs of a Former VolunTeen - Mehvish Kahn - Orientation
Team building with my fellow VolunTeens.

The journey from VolunTeen to Thinker wasn’t always easy. I had a lot of learning and growing to do, both personally and professionally. Almost immediately, I realized that body language could make or break a patron’s experience. I worked hard to remedy an already-ingrained teenage sulk and a pair of perpetually-crossed arms.

It was tough. My first frazzled Saturdays in Let’s Grow left me wide-eyed with my hair on end, and my dreams were filled with fruit all over the floor and plastic tomatoes in the wrong bin. Slowly but surely, I learned to stay calm, no matter the situation. I noticed that by projecting a peaceful demeanor, others around me stayed calm during hectic situations, too—a strong leadership skill that I learned simply by managing Fresh! 

However, the most important thing that I’ve learned, and the most powerful thing I can say about going through a transition, is to embrace uncertainty. When you find yourself facing a problem, dive right in and make mistakes! It is completely okay to feel like you’re too small for something—or that you don’t know what you’re doing—especially at Thinkery. There will always be an inspiring staff member or VolunTeen to support you every step of the way.

Memoirs of a Former VolunTeen - Mehvish Khan
Learning how to facilitate activities for the very first time.

The transition from being a teenager concerned with friends and movies to becoming an active member of an enormous team that serves our community has been incredibly humbling, and also life changing. Three years ago, I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into the big red building—and I’m grateful. To this day, Thinkery is still the perfect fit.

Thank you so much to all the visitors, staff, and volunteers for making Thinkery such a fantastic place to grow and learn.

Memoirs of a Former VolunTeen - Mehvish Khan - Thinker
My last day as a Thinker before returning to school. I’ll be back next year!

Interested in Thinkery’s youth career readiness and volunteering program? You’re in luck! We’re accepting applications for our Fall 2016 VolunTeen cohort. Teenagers ages 12-18 can apply here!

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