By the time I hit 14-years-old, I had only lived in Santa Fe for two years. Growing up in Los Angeles, I still wasn’t used to a smaller city with a slower pace and trying to make new friends. Additionally, my mother had decided to homeschool my brother and I that year, which meant the whole time period was really more of an exercise in loneliness and hurt feelings.
In an effort to get literally any time outside of the house at all, I felt a volunteer position someplace would be good for me and round out the homeschooling experience. I’d move on to working with nonprofits like Shakespeare in Santa Fe and Warehouse 21, and contribute to the Santa Fe New Mexican and take classes at the Santa Fe Community College, that year, my spring, summer and winter were spent volunteering at the Santa Fe Children’s Museum—and it was glorious.
It was probably naïveté that led me to believe I’d be manning the bubble table. petting the museum animals, and clamoring up the climbing wall eight hours a day. What ultimately followed was not just my learning a thing or two about how nonprofits work and how hard work works, it was—as cheesy as this sounds— a journey of vital self-discovery.
Volunteering with the Santa Fe Children’s Museum not only brought me a feeling of connection with coworkers and the families who attended the space regularly, but it also proved to offer some early insights into community, camaraderie, and doing something in the service of ideas greater than myself – not for material reward, but also for emotional enrichment and in the best interest of the people. I learned so much about the world through my time at the Santa Fe Children’s Museum, particularly how to form and apply my own set of values, all of which I adhere to to this day.
Years later I’d visit with friends and their children, amazed by the improvements of the space, yet still struck with that familiar pang of nostalgia. We’d watch some young family laugh at their massive bubbles, work in the public garden, while learning about science, playing…connecting. Even more recently, hearing of more detailed programming in community agriculture, astronomy, biology, and other sciences makes me glad, and it reinforces my belief in the power of play for people of all ages.
It is not hyperbole to say that nearly all of the wonderful things that have happened to me since I relocated to New Mexico –– a career in journalism, a deeper appreciation for community and an enduring love of Santa Fe—would not have come to pass had I not walked through that Museum door, stood nervously in that office and meekly sputtered out, ‘Hi, umm, I’m here to hold the snakes.”
~Alex DeVore, Former Museum Volunteer/Santa Fe Journalist