Humans of Harker: Reaching in and reaching out

John Lynch forms connections with the community through coding and volunteering

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Aditya Singhvi

“It’s amazing the conversations that you can have [while volunteering] and the different perspectives that you can experience with these random people that you’ve never met before. Whether it be the people you’re serving, or other volunteers, [by] going in and trying to be a little extroverted and make conversation, you can make these new connections and learn so much more about the world and the community around you,” John Lynch (12) said.

In this chaotic world of online learning and irregular schedules, it is easy to lose track of time in a busy day of Zoom classes. Luckily, Harker students and faculty alike can rely on the Harker Bell Schedule website to arrive at their classes and commitments. Behind this dependable website’s sleek design, a devoted team is committed to continually maintaining and improving the site. Among this dedicated group is John Lynch (12), who has been a member of HarkerDev, the organization that designed the site, since freshman year.

Being inquisitive since he was a child, John was first introduced to programming after reading an introductory book that guided him through creating an entire online game. Immediately drawn to computer science, John joined HarkerDev in his freshman year. Since then, he has become an exceptional programmer and an integral part of the HarkerDev program. Yet, although he loves creating these new tools, for John, the most valuable aspect of being part of the HarkerDev team is the close-knit community of programmers. These friendships have only become more important over the past year.

“Even though we’re generally virtual, as it happens, we do definitely have a bond,” John said. “It’s really nice to have that community of like-minded people, and you can all talk to each other about coding, and nobody else really gets it, but you’re all on the same page.”

In addition to playing a major role in the Harker community, John also strives to contribute to the larger community through volunteering. His first major experience with volunteering was a service trip he took several years ago to Jamaica, where he spent one week at a monastery in the Jamaican capital Kingston. During this trip, John visited centers for mentally and physically disabled people and helped take care of them.

“It’s amazing the conversations that you can have [while volunteering] and the different perspectives that you can experience with these random people that you’ve never met before,” John said. “Whether it be the people you’re serving, or other volunteers, [by] going in and trying to be a little extroverted and make conversation, you can make these new connections and learn so much more about the world and the community around you.”

Currently, John’s main volunteer work stems from his church, where he attends weekly meetings in which he listens to people share their experiences. After joining the church’s crew leadership team at the end of his sophomore year, John has also taken on the role of leading the church’s youth ministry. John recalls when he was nominated for crew member of the year, which was a memorable moment for him.

“It wasn’t so much that I was getting this award, but it was that all of my friends were around me, and they were cheering me on. They were like, ‘You deserve it, man,’ and that was a really awesome moment where everyone in that community is super supportive of each other and wants the best [for each other],” John said.

On top of volunteering at his church, John volunteers at Second Harvest, where he enjoys spending time with others while giving back to the community. He also helps out at a local homeless shelter called Hope’s Corner, as he is especially passionate about helping the homeless, a cause he wishes more people would help out with. He hopes that through his volunteering, more people can escape the problem of homelessness.

“[John’s] really passionate about the stuff that he does. He doesn’t talk about it all the time … but he does all this stuff outside of school that I know he’s really passionate about and spends a lot of time working on, which is pretty cool,” close friend Maria Teplova (12) said.

Through his various volunteer efforts, John’s sociable personality has had the opportunity to shine. Yet, John was not as outgoing as he is now when first entering high school.

“When I was first going into high school, I was definitely this very introverted dude,” John said. “I liked my friends, and I liked it that way. I have this little group, and we hung out, and I was loud when I was with them, but when I was on my own, if I wasn’t with them, I was wandering around, hanging out in the library.”

John noticed that, after freshman year, he started losing touch with some of his older friends. Realizing that he would often feel lonely, he strove to change his mindset, a decision that transformed his high school experience. Although doing so was a challenge, John strove to be more extroverted.

“I realized that part of high school is changing, and I had to make that conscious decision to change. So I decided, ‘Hey, I’m going to be outgoing,’” John said. “Obviously, it was not instant, but I really tried to go out and reach out and make friends and talk to people.”

By becoming more open, John has forged several strong friendships. His friends all treasure the amiable yet thought-provoking banter with John.

“There’s a lot of back and forth joking around with each other,” close friend Abbie Blenko (12) said. “We definitely diverge on a lot of different things; we don’t view the world the same way at all. But I think we’re both comfortable telling each other when we disagree with each other and [are] able to talk it out and both broaden our perspectives.”

In addition to bringing a valuable perspective to conversations, John has also proven his loyalty and thoughtfulness as a friend. While running cross country together, his friend Jason Lin (12) noticed this special quality.

“Often, I would be slowing down a bit, and [John would be] like, ‘You got this, let’s keep going,’” Jason said. “I never felt like I was being too slow. It was some real strong, unspoken camaraderie that radiated [between us].”

John extends his easy-going personality to everyone, whether it be volunteering at his church or hanging out with friends. He realized that reaching out to other people is always worth the effort.

“That’s definitely one of the things I’m proudest of [in] my high school experience: becoming this person who tries to make himself easy to talk to and who finds other people to talk to. It’s [about] trying to get the whole story of the community around you and trying to meet new people and hav[ing] these different experiences,” John said.