Written By Shelley Li, FCSN Voices Senior Youth Reporter
Graphics by: Iris Fu, FCSN Voices Graphic Artist
In 2002, BASIS Independent Silicon Valley Senior Katherine He’s family joined FCSN in hopes of finding a special needs community for her brother. After watching her brother engage in numerous FCSN programs and events, Katherine was inspired by the warmth and inclusivity of the community, deciding that she too wanted to become part of the loving special needs family.
Since then, Katherine has created new interactive classes for special needs individuals including Lego Digital Design, Find Your Voice, and Life Skills, helping participants develop computer skills, improve speech and communication, and learn about finances and current events. Additionally, through her initiatives, she prides herself in having increased volunteer participation. For example, in the Life Skills class, volunteers were paired with special needs students, aiding them with completing lesson plans and projects; through that experience, many of those volunteers found their passion within FCSN and their local special needs community.
Along the way, the FCSN community has constantly embraced Katherine with loving arms — from parents calling her with positive feedback and encouragement for her classes to one student gifting her with welcome hugs every in-person class. However, the interactions didn’t come without their challenges. When she first began to volunteer, Katherine often faced difficulties connecting with the special needs children. “Moments like asking a question and not receiving a response or not understanding what upset a student made me feel like I wasn’t doing my part as a teacher or friend,” Katherine said. Nevertheless, as she learned along the way, bonds were forged with time and patience, and after a year of interaction, she began to understand her students’ personalities and habits, finally creating the bond that was made even more precious with the molding of time.
As a volunteer-teacher for FCSN, Katherine truly experienced the strength of caring and the power of collaboration. When communicating with fellow volunteers, ideas weren’t classified based on their quality but instead were treated as foundations to inspire new ideas or starting points for improvement. Katherine learned that volunteering with a loving and open heart transcended any qualifications, for she realized that the most powerful communication and bonds may not necessarily be verbal. “Being an FCSN volunteer has made me a better sister, volunteer, and leader in many ways, and I’m grateful that it has done the same for many of the people around me,” Katherine said.
Outside of FCSN, Katherine started her school’s annual Neurodiversity Celebration Week and conducts policy research. In addition, she plays the oboe for the California Youth Symphony, and as a hobby, enjoys reading and playing Wordle. In the future, she hopes to pursue the intersection of law and technology, while continuing her passion for advocating for disability rights and creating technology-inspired initiatives for the special needs community.