If you had asked the short, stubby, five-year-old version of me where I would be spending the summer before my senior year of high school, she would have never guessed correctly. The opportunity to give back to the organization that honed her curiosity seemed out of reach. That is, until this summer when I became an official volunteer.
When I was younger, KidsQuest was a wonderland and the people who made it happen were surely magicians. Camps, birthday parties, and the occasional lucky weekend spent at KidsQuest stick out in my mind as some of the most engaging memories. From donning an apron to splash in the water exhibit to “driving” the larger-than-life truck, there were an infinite number of things to try that I could not find at home. Though I was young and don’t remember every detail, that feeling of euphoria while making a discovery is one that cannot be falsified.
A few weeks before my first day, I came in to meet some staff members and check out the new building. As I walked (and climbed!) through the new facility, it seemed that the shiny new technology and the great new location were what a rapidly growing KidsQuest deserved. I found myself continually in awe of the gorgeous exhibits and the swarms of happy kids running around me, completely engaged in their surroundings. Suddenly, a severe wave of nostalgia hit me like a wall of bricks. I used to be one of those kids. I paused scooping ice-cream in Bellevue Mercantile to consider this realization. Was I really that old? Where had all the time gone?
I decided that the summer before my last year of high school should be a summer of productivity and impact on my community. I scoured the area for jobs and different ways to apply myself, but in retrospect, there was only one right fit. Now, I return to KidsQuest three mornings a week to assist the marketing and development team. I feel different as I see all the children around me, but despite my age, it turns out that I’m still making discoveries:
- The climber is harder than it looks. (How do kids scramble up so quickly?)
- Sometimes, there is a queue that forms at the doors before the museum even opens, I’d be there too if I were them.
- The current building used to be a doll and toy museum. Remnants of past exhibits can still be seen if you look hard enough.
- The staff office has great coffee!
- A decade after my first KidsQuest experience, not much has changed: I’m still short and KidsQuest is still a wonderland. However, it turns out that the people who make it happen are not magicians after all. Instead, they are a rare caliber of everyday heroes: a group of staff and volunteers who deeply care about a mission that they firmly believe in. I owe a part of both my childhood and present-day person to this museum and its dedication to discovery.
Contributed by Sophie Lee