Article written for La Jolla High press by ASHLEY MACKIN-SOLOMON Through weekly online meetings, Trevor Dunklee aims to give hope, friendship and opportunity to a 15-year-old boy in the war-torn country who wants to go into the tech field.
For the past eight months, La Jolla High School sophomore Trevor Dunklee has been meeting online every Sunday at 10 a.m. (8 p.m. Ukraine time) with a student living in a Ukrainian town called Novovolynsk to help teach him English.
“It feels like I’m having a tangible impact on someone else’s life,” Trevor said. “Learning English is such an important thing in countries in Europe and Asia because it gives people opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have.”
Trevor is working with a 15-year-old boy named Sasha who eventually wants to go into the tech field, so learning English will be an asset.
With help from a nonprofit organization ENGin, Trevor has been having conversations with Sasha to help him go from English comprehension to English fluency.
ENGin connects English-speaking volunteers 14 and older with Ukrainians ages 9-35 for online speaking practice and cross-cultural exchange.
“Practice makes perfect, so we talk a lot about things that we have been doing in our respective towns and what we have experienced,” Trevor said. “That way, it doesn’t feel forced. I didn’t want it to feel like homework for him. I wanted to help smooth out his conversation skills and improve his vocabulary.”
ENGin provides lessons and prompts to help with some of the more technical components of language.
Despite living halfway around the world from each other, Trevor and Sasha found they had a lot in common.
“He does a lot of fun stuff, like riding his bike in the forest and hanging out with his friends,” Trevor said. “You’d be surprised at how few differences there are between us. Sasha and I have become friends, and I feel I benefit from our relationship at least as much as he does. Our sessions give me a front-row seat to the effects of the [Russia-Ukraine] war and the hardships faced when living in a war-ravaged country. I do my best to support Sasha through the ongoing difficulties he faces, but mostly we talk about our interests and activities, just like I would with any friend.”
Trevor said the time he has spent with Sasha and ENGin has been “really rewarding. I know what I’m doing is helping someone.”
He said he plans to continue with the organization as long as he can.
In addition, Trevor is in the Lion’s Heart service group — which finds local volunteer opportunities for teenagers — and said he enjoys “seeing where it can take me.”
He’s also involved in a sailing club that operates out of the Mission Bay Yacht Club because he loves the competition and physicality, and the La Jolla High School debate team because of the chance to learn about new topics.
But his heart is in his service work. “Volunteerism is a good way to give back to the world,” he said. “I want people to understand that people in Third World countries are going through so much, and I want to give back. It means a lot to me.”