In FCSN Voices’ 2022 GYVers campaign, we are proud to honor the graduating high school seniors who have contributed so much to the success of FCSN’s programs.
Written by Jennie Wang, FCSN Voices Lead Reporter/Editor
Graphics by Amanda Loh, Graphic Artist
For Mission San Jose High School senior Isabella He, one volunteering experience at FCSN sparked a lifelong passion for special needs advocacy. Today, Isabella is the founder of FCSN Clubs, co-founder and Tutor Coordinator of Special Needs (SN) Tutoring, and the Advisor of FCSN’s online newsletter, FCSN Voices. These outstanding efforts led her to receive the title of 2021 FCSN Volunteer of the Year, selected from a pool of more than 1,200 volunteers as the top contributor.
Isabella began volunteering for FCSN when she first moved from Hong Kong to the Bay Area, discovering FCSN through online research and quickly becoming interested in FCSN’s Afterschool Program and the FCSN Special Needs Talent Show. After volunteering for several other non-profits, Isabella found that FCSN was the organization that stood out to her the most. Her early experiences at FCSN taught her how valuable the special needs community is to society, inspiring her to expand her involvement and develop new avenues to assist neurodivergent individuals. “I realized that I could make a big impact by joining FCSN, and … that the [kids, adults, and children] that I would interact with at FCSN would have a big impact on me,” Isabella said.
Reflecting on her time at FCSN, Isabella is most proud of her efforts to increase volunteer involvement at FCSN, especially through FCSN Clubs, SNTutoring, and FCSN Voices. For instance, SNTutoring, a virtual 1:1 tutoring program for neurodiverse students, was started in 2020 and has expanded to more than 350 student-tutor matches. The program is rooted in the values of friendship, camaraderie, and patience, and it has allowed strong bonds to blossom between students and their volunteer tutors, who directly communicate with one another in weekly virtual sessions. Serving as the Tutor Coordinator for this program taught Isabella the importance of empathy and collaboration. “The stories and the bonds that come out of SNTutoring are very special … [It’s] one of the most impactful volunteer experiences that I’ve had,” Isabella said.
As a new volunteer, Isabella initially struggled with finding opportunities to increase her involvement in FCSN. Since volunteering for FCSN requires a great deal of dedication and commitment, the learning curve for beginners can be intimidating. For Isabella, however, her rewarding interactions with special needs students encouraged her to pursue FCSN. “FCSN is one of those volunteer organizations where you really have to be very focused at the time you’re volunteering … If a child is distracted or trying to run away … you have to be able to take on that responsibility yourself,” Isabella said. After gaining more experience in the organization, she began introducing her own volunteer initiatives.
Outside of FCSN, Isabella enjoys wrestling and hopes to explore other types of combative sports in college.
In the fall, she will attend Stanford University, studying Management Science and Engineering, where she hopes to broaden her skill-set, resources, and opportunities to start new innovations for both the special needs community and society as a whole.