In preparation for our upcoming workshop Lifehack: Live Inspired we interviewed some Bay Area professionals who inspire us to go beyond the daily grind and use our time to make a difference in the community.
She has volunteered as a mentor at the Contra Costa Juvenile Hall for the last 8 years, spoken on a panel for Junior Achievement for low income youth transitioning from high school to college, served breakfast at Dorothy Day homeless shelter, helped with a backpack drive for Alternative Family Services, built a playground for an elementary school in Richmond and currently she’s working on a community engagement program at her job to get engineers to teach inner city second graders at SF City Academy how to code.
But perhaps even more notable than Erinne Seay’s impressive list of volunteer experience is her ability to inspire. Her passion is contagious; if you spend enough time around Erinne you will inevitably find yourself sharing her desire to give. Erinne doesn’t just volunteer her own time, she motivates her friends and coworkers to get excited about getting involved as well (as seen in the above picture – Erinne, front row, second from right, with a group of friends volunteering at a 2014 Christmas celebration at Contra Costa Juvenile Hall).
In addition to her volunteer work, Erinne is in her first year at Holy Names getting a Masters in Forensic Psychology and works as an HR coordinator at Pivotal in San Francisco. Our interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Why do you choose to volunteer specifically with kids in juvenile hall, foster kids, and families in need?
What inspires me is being able to be part of someone’s life to help them grow. It can be easy to take life for granted when you are used to getting things easily. School can be challenging, especially for a kid who doesn’t have the brand new Jordans or the checkered Jansport backpack. I did the backpack drive, for example, because I want to help kids and families be able to have their kid go to school and learn without having to feel less than the kids around them or afraid to be picked on because they don’t have the latest gear.
How do you find time to volunteer with a busy schedule?
Discipline, plan ahead. Mostly on the weekends, in the morning. Also, being able to get my company, Pivotal involved in volunteering for kids at SF City Academy enables me to volunteer as part of my job.
How do you motivate yourself and others to serve?
What motivates me is knowing that what really changes lives is having someone to connect with on a heart level. Although I didn’t grow up in the same environment as these kids, they really just need someone to give them vision. I love that I can be so different outwardly from the kids in juvenile hall or a homeless person, but be able to change their life with a conversation and giving them hope that we all struggle with relationships, emotions, et cetera, and with friends and people who care we can overcome those struggles.
Can you give us a few steps on how to do what you did?
My dad has always been someone who worked hard but also made time to volunteer and get me involved since I was little. My dad was always speaking at different charity events and picking up kids and I would have no idea where they came from. I was just inspired by that.
Now, every few weeks I receive a newsletter from the community regarding volunteer opportunities in the Bay Area. Anything with kids, foster kids, families in need, sparks my attention. I also look for ways to get my friends and co-workers involved in giving back, because I know many of them want to and just don’t know how. I love the fact that I don’t have to do it alone, and my passion can inspire people around to me to get involved as well.
For more ways to live an inspired life, check out our upcoming workshop Lifehack: Live Inspired.