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Movie trailers are like commercials. Sometimes they're entertaining; usually they're a nuisance. But only rarely are they life-changing. What happened to Michael Nicklin proved the exception to the rule.
After years of procrastinating and finding excuses not to volunteer, Nicklin's world was rocked when a powerfully emotional monologue about the importance of giving back caught his attention in a trailer for "The Music Within," a 2007 film directed by Steven Sawalich.
The film tells the story of Richard Pimentel, the Vietnam veteran who became an outspoken advocate for the disabled after losing his hearing in the war, and who led the effort to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. It was a motivational message that resonated with Nicklin, moving him out of his seat and onto the Internet in search of an opportunity to share his own skills with others.
"I believe Oprah calls this an ‘ah-ha' moment," Nicklin recounts. "I choked up with emotion, hit the pause button on my remote, and headed for the computer."
Within minutes at VolunteerMatch.org, Nicklin was signed up with the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) – an organization that provides entrepreneurship education programs to young people from low-income communities.
An entrepreneur himself, Nicklin knew the perfect opportunity when he saw it. As a business consultant, motivational speaker, founder of The Nicklin Group, he had spent most of the last two decades flying around the world helping companies increase their revenues and profitability. But changing his orientation to making a difference for others was new.
"After spending so many years focused on career and the bottom line, I could not escape my perception of the self-indulgence of it all. In a word: ‘take.' The time had come to give and I finally believed I had the time to do so," he says. "Let's face it, there is never time – we must make the time."
Two weeks later, Nicklin reported for duty at his first high school campus (he ended up assisting at five in all), serving as a business plan coach for a classroom of high school juniors and seniors.
"A wave of insecurity came over me, and I asked myself, ‘Do I have anything of unique value to offer these students?' Yes, I did – which I discovered only with the help of each and every student in that classroom," he says. "At the end of the two-hour coaching session, my head was spinning, my shirt was soaked with perspiration, and my heart had been touched."
On his second assignment he served as a business plan presentation judge. Arriving, he discovered that one of the student presenters couldn't make it because the student had been stabbed -- a reminder of the obstacles these students face each day and the importance of the program.
"Access to resources – both financial and non-monetary – is often an insurmountable challenge to these students," he says. "NFTE helps them overcome these challenges and being a small part of that process is brilliantly rewarding."
This year, as a result of his commitment to the program and its students, Nicklin was presented with the NFTE Volunteer Service Award for "Volunteer of the Year" in the Greater Los Angeles area. He encourages others to seek out volunteer opportunities that feel relevant and utilize their core skills.
"If at first you don't find a volunteering opportunity that fits, just keep returning to VolunteerMatch on a regular basis and the perfect opportunity will reveal itself," he says.
"My experience with NFTE this school year was life-changing for me. This volunteer effort has changed my views, enhanced my perspective, taught me invaluable lessons, heightened my compassion and gratitude, and introduced me to wonderful individuals."
Are you ready to open your heart to life changing experiences? VolunteerMatch makes it easy to find something that not only speaks to you, but also matches your special skills and interests. Get started today at www.volunteermatch.org.