Below is a transcript of the speech given by Lali, one of our youth interns, delivered in front of a crowd of more than 100 people at Waterside’s 15th anniversary party and fundraiser. Lali is a senior at El Cerrito High School, where she serves as her class president.
Good afternoon and welcome to Waterside’s 15th Anniversary Party and Quinceanera.
My name is Lali and I’m currently a senior at El Cerrito High. I’ve been at Waterside since January of this year. I’m an intern so I mostly help with fixing up the bikes that get donated, and I recently started helping out in our cafe that just reopened. Today I’m going to be telling you a story that demonstrates why I enjoy working at Waterside.
Open shop is for the community to come and have a dedicated space to find all the resources they might need to fix up their own bike. Customers come to us with a bike issue and we are there ready to assist if and when needed. We greet each customer by asking their reason for coming to open shop, and if they know what they are doing or if they need any assistance.
There was one busy Sunday when I was shadowing, which is when interns follow and learn from staff members as they help customers. I was shadowing Cleo that day, which I always enjoy because she’s very engaging and her positive attitude shows how much she loves helping people
That day, a short, young woman with straight black hair came in and explained that she needed to change out her brakes. Surprisingly, Cleo volunteered me to help her on my own. Cleo said, “That is totally something my lovely intern here can assist you with!” I was shocked, nervous, and anxious because I didn’t know all the technical terms relating to the bike parts so I wasn’t sure how well I’d be able to help out the customer.
The customer explained to me that her bike needed cantilever brakes, so I got her the tools she needed. We started on the brakes, and I was beginning to feel confident because I felt like I knew what I was doing. We were cutting the length of the cable for the front brakes and once we cut it, it hit me, I had messed up.
I was missing a piece for the brakes. I didn’t have the straddle cable that was needed, so when it came time to actually hook up the brake, the cable was too short. I froze.
I didn’t know what to do and was worried about the customer’s reaction. Was she going to yell at me? Would she report me to my manager? Was she upset and going to complain that I didn’t have enough knowledge to help her?
I was anxious and getting mentally prepared for her reaction. My face was turning red like a tomato, my mask getting moistened because of my sweat, I could feel my heart beating at a thousand miles per hour. As I snapped back to reality, she was actually very calm and super understanding. She smiled, laughed, and gently said that everything was fine. I called over to Cleo, “Oh teacher lady, I need help.” Cleo came over laughing and super vibrant and joyful as always with her wavy red curls.
I explained to Cleo how I messed up the customers brakes, and did not exactly remember how to set them up. The customer was relaxed as we laughed through the situation. She was sympathetic, especially considering how it took me a minute to process my mistake.
The customer’s reaction showed me something new that day, about our community in specific. The environment surrounding Waterside is very welcoming, safe, and understanding. The people here bring a unique touch into the building with their patient and playful personalities. The staff members are different from other adults because their vibe is very lively and they’re committed to make sure we have fun and gain knowledge. When I’m at Waterside I feel a sense of belonging and connection.
I want to thank Waterside for all the opportunities and experiences I have gained. Working here wouldn’t be as special if it weren’t for the community. Thank you all for joining us here today. Your support is very much appreciated.