Volunteer Spotlight: Nathaniel Soria

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As we continue to honor our volunteers for National Volunteer Week, The Children’s Aid Society is shining a spotlight on Nathaniel Soria, an Executive Committee Member of the Associates Council.  Nate has volunteered in a variety of opportunities from overhauling the Associates Council image and marketing campaigns, designing a 4-paneled mural at the Dunlevy Milbank Center, to teaching an art class at The Hope Leadership Academy.  Nate is always willing and available to help out in whatever capacity we need him.  He is a valuable asset to our volunteer family!

Jennifer Gallivan, President of the Associates Council says:

“In this age of social media, constant e-mails, and constant electronic overload, the key to success is thoughtful, unique, and memorable marketing. Especially for a non-profit organization. The Associates Council has been in existence for 25+ years within Children’s Aid, and through its history the group has raised millions of dollars for Children’s Aid and certainly created awareness about its programs and advocacy issues. But, in my opinion, a consistent ‘AC brand’ didn’t exist until this year. Nate Soria, a stellar graphic designer and brilliant creator jumped on board the AC last fall and before we knew it he was brainstorming marketing plans & drafting up creative pieces, while at the same time creating murals up at Millbank and editing videos of volunteer events. Not even two months had passed before I asked Nate to consider joining our Executive Council as head of marketing for the AC and he didn’t even hesitate before accepting. His dedication, enthusiasm, flexibility, and endless energy have been so motivating and contagious. It’s really a pleasure to have him on the team!”  

Below, Nate shares his feelings on why he enjoys volunteering and what he has gained by working with the children at The Children’s Aid Society.

What motivated you to volunteer at Children’s Aid?

Two things: my faith and my art. Only a year ago I moved to NYC in the hopes to expand as an artist and partake in its diverse culture. Taking the leap from small-city Kansas City, MO to the Big Apple takes a lot of faith, so before I made the move I committed myself to meditating more. During my time of reflection I was led to reach out to an organization that helps children who might've not had the same opportunities I've been blessed with.

I wanted to give my art to Children's Aid Society, not just because it's my profession, but also because my art centers around children, tweens and teens. For 3 years I worked at a children's marketing agency, doing design and animation. Before that I was always drawing cartoons and comics. I also learned how to do caricatures at Six Flags and now do them at various parties and events. And currently I'm writing a fantasy novel that is geared towards tweens. I'm a kid at heart and do kid art very well, so they play an important part in my life. I'm a firm believer in the idea that what our children are taught today will determine how our society grows tomorrow. Kids are very important.

What keeps you coming?

Definitely the kids, and now that I've gotten to know more of Children’s Aid employees/volunteers, the people. There are so many different people from all sorts of backgrounds coming together for a great cause, each with brilliant hearts and minds, who are a blast to work with and learn from. It makes for a fun and warm-hearted environment. 

What do you enjoy most about your volunteer experience here?

I enjoy hearing and seeing how active The Children's Aid Society can be in helping children and their families grow. It's a love in action that is so influential to the young hearts and minds within the organization. The kids themselves can be much fun to be around, a lot of them so hopeful and willing to make a change in their own communities. That definitely moves me.

What have you learned or how have you personally been affected from your experience at Children’s Aid?

Being an artist it's easy to be confined to your work-bench, out of touch with the world around you. Children's Aid has been a vehicle for me to see another side of NYC that I didn't know was there. Here there is a whole world of families and children who are struggling with little to nothing to get by. The reality of it is it's not always pretty, it can even seem bleak at times. Even so, these neighborhoods and communities have rich cultures with people who have dreams, goals, and desires just like everyone else. It's amazing to see how one city can connect us all and how we try to help one another to excel towards our dreams.

Why do you think it is important to volunteer in the community?

Aside from my faith leading me to it, I also feel it's good to recognize that we are all a part of something great. Within our lives, in the places we live, the shops where we shop, the restaurants where we eat, there are connections to a great community. Without the train driver who is willing to wake up at 4 in the morning to take his shift, I couldn't get to work on time. We are all connected, especially in New York City, and I feel I owe a debt of gratitude to a city that has given me so much. We should all give back a little because we are all blessed to be here. 

Is there anyone that has inspired or mentored you along the way that has influenced your decision to volunteer?

Definitely my mother and father. My dad worked for the Federal Government, so we had to move a lot, but in each place we moved to the first thing my parents would do is connect and volunteer at a church. They would always reach out to the outcast and open our house to everyone, feeding them hardy meals made by my mom and becoming close friends with all sorts of people. Since I was a child they've helped me see the best in all people and recognize those who might need a little help.

Do you have an inspirational story you can briefly share about your volunteer experience at The Children’s Aid Society?  Please share with us!

Last Summer I was able to teach an art class at Hope Leadership Academy in Harlem. The main assignment we worked on was to create a one page comic in pen and ink. I tried to help them form their own comic style by showcasing a lot of diverse comic artists who I appreciated, especially highlighting Will Eisner's ability to capture things in NYC in a unique way. They quickly caught on and used those references to capture parts in their own lives, emotions, dreams and fantasies. They were so excited to tell their stories and the work was stunning!

Granted, working with any group of teens can be challenging. There were some struggles that we had to overcome. Even so, at the end of the summer course Hope did a ceremony for the teens, acknowledging their achievements. I was touched to hear some of the kid's speeches; how much they appreciated the program, how much hope they had now, and even how some of my own lessons gave them a new found understanding of the world. It made all of the challenges worth it. I still think of those students and certainly pray they keep working towards the goals they were so excited to illustrate. They affected me in a great way and I appreciate it. 

What are some of your hobbies?                      

Playing zombie video games, hiking around Prospect Park, drawing in my sketchbook people/places in Manhattan, DJing at hole-in-the-wall bars and enjoying a good sci-fi movie.

Featured Image: Nathaniel Soria (standing on the ladder on the left) designed this four paneled mural depicting the different seasons for the Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem.