Humans of Harker: Striving to serve

Elizabeth Fields gains confidence and purpose through various volunteering endeavors

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Esha Gohil

“I really like this basic Tumblr quote, it’s called, ‘Reach for the moon, and if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.’ The way I interpret that is … to set unachievable goals. So I’ll try and reach that unachievable goal, and if I make it, that’s awesome … but if I don’t, I’ve still achieved a lot,” Elizabeth Fields (12) said.

A field of grass that goes on seemingly forever. Hundreds of different species of plants. Only a few other people in sight. Elizabeth Fields (12) spends a significant amount of time in places like these, volunteering with Grassroots Ecology to take care of the surrounding nature. Working beside her are her supervisors, whom she has formed close relationships with over the past three years. A combination of the heat and tiring labor causes beads of sweat to form on Elizabeth’s forehead, but she continues to do her part in helping nature.

Like many of her peers, Elizabeth started volunteering solely to fulfill her yearly volunteering hours requirement. After her friend’s mom introduced her to Grassroots Ecology, an organization that works to help habitat restoration, Elizabeth found a new purpose to her volunteer work.

“I started volunteering the summer after my freshman year … because I needed service hours,” Elizabeth said. “But then I really liked it because my supervisors were really nice, so I kept coming back, really just to hang out with them and be in nature.”

During her high school career, Elizabeth has participated in various different types of volunteering, including tutoring and fundraising events. No matter what type of community service she is doing, her favorite part is improving other people’s days.

“I think the best part is when you do something, and then a random person you’re helping out just gets so happy,” Elizabeth said. “I remember I volunteered for this race [on] New Year’s Eve … My only job was to just stand on the sidelines and just cheer … and they were so happy. Everyone running was [thanking me] for coming.”

Throughout the past four years, Grassroots Ecology has been a constant in Elizabeth’s volunteering journey. Over the span of several three hour volunteer sessions, she has met many other fellow volunteers and created connections with them.

“I think it’s fun meeting new people every single time and [then] saying goodbye, because you get to know so many more people and there’s no commitment: you can just be yourself,” Elizabeth said. 

As she started to get more involved with volunteering outside of school, Elizabeth also joined Key Club, one of Harker’s main service clubs. Cassandra Ruedy (‘20), one of Elizabeth’s close friends and a water polo teammate, describes how Elizabeth’s generous personality plays hand in hand with Key Club’s tenets. 

“[Elizabeth’s] very selfless. I think that’s an amazing quality, especially since she’s part of Key Club, and one of their main facets is that they volunteer a lot,” Cassandra said. “I don’t think she joined Key Club for the club itself, I think she joined because she really enjoyed finding volunteering opportunities.”

Anika Tiwari (‘20), another one of her friends and teammates, notices how Elizabeth’s role as co-president of Key Club has helped her gain confidence.

“She’s [organizing] these events and initiatives, and there’s a lot that she’s in charge of as one of the co-presidents. It’s very impressive to me how she’s taken it all on,” Anika said. “She wasn’t as confident about wanting to be president in the beginning, but now she is very in control, and I think it suits her really well.”

Elizabeth has also gained confidence from her personal Etsy store, where she sells handmade string art. Although her family now supports her business, she originally created the store to prove her father’s doubts wrong. 

“Father’s Day was coming up, and I made a California string art for [my dad,] because he always complained that no one ever gave him personalized gifts. [When] I gave it to him, he said he did not like it. So I decided to start making more and selling them just out of spite,” Elizabeth said with a laugh. 

Over the past few years, Elizabeth’s Etsy business has helped her grow in more than one way. Along with learning real-world skills, such as finance, she has also grown more adept at communicating with others.

“[My store] is very hands-on, so I [have] learned a lot of things,” Elizabeth said. “It’s helped me learn how to talk to people, because if I want to make a custom piece for someone, I’ll have to talk to them for an hour or so [to] go over every single detail of what they want.”

The amount of effort and diligence that Elizabeth applies to her Etsy store is similar to the work she puts into her academics. Upper school chemistry teacher Dr. Mala Raghavan, who taught Elizabeth AP Chemistry in her junior year, recognizes that one of Elizabeth’s main points of growth was gaining confidence in herself.

“[She gained] confidence in [a] course that … was a little challenging,” Dr. Raghavan said. “The biggest point of growth for her was learning to be independent [and] proactive.”

Elizabeth also credits a majority of her growth throughout high school to her friends. Since most of her friends were upperclassmen that she met through the water polo team, she looked up to them as role models.

“I got really lucky with my friends. Somehow, they’re all intelligent, athletic, [and] motivated: the best qualities a person can have … So [my] goal was always to [try] and be on that level,” Elizabeth said.

Whether it was selling her first art piece on Etsy or reaching her one hundred hour volunteering milestone with Grassroots Ecology, Elizabeth strives to set the bar high.

“I really like this basic Tumblr quote, it’s called, ‘Reach for the moon, and if you miss, you’ll land among the stars,’” Elizabeth said. “The way I interpret that is … to set unachievable goals. So I’ll try and reach that unachievable goal, and if I make it, that’s awesome … but if I don’t, I’ve still achieved a lot.”