Meet our PAL: Crystaltina Montagna-Horizons For Homeless Children

Meet our PAL: Crystaltina Montagna

Our Playspace Activity Leaders (PALs) are so important to the impact of our work. Without their time and commitment, we wouldn’t be able to provide hundreds of hours of play each week to children living in homeless shelters across the state.

This week, in honor of National Volunteer Week (April 15-22), we’ll be spotlighting some of our amazing PALs! Make sure you share your volunteer story on social media, with the hashtag #WhyIVolunteer2018!

Meet our PAL: Crystaltina Montagna

How long have you been a PAL? What keeps you coming back year after year?
I just celebrated my 2nd anniversary as a PAL. February is my birthday month and I couldn’t be happier to share it with this milestone. I keep coming back to Playspace because I learn from the kids as much as I teach them. I look forward to Mondays now because that’s when I have my Playspace shift; how many people can say that about Mondays!? 

“I keep coming back to Playspace because I learn from the kids as much as I teach them.”

What compelled you to become involved?
I am a former homeless youth, which is what compels me to work with homeless populations. I am passionate about combating the stigma surrounding homelessness. I wish there had been a program like Horizons around when my family was struggling and I am so happy I get to be a part of one now that I am in a position to give-back. 

How much time do you volunteer per month and how has your role evolved as a PAL?
I volunteer 8 hours a month, 2 hours a week. My role started as just a vehicle of play for the kids but has evolved into structured play that is therapeutic, healing and educational.

What makes this experience so rewarding?
Seeing the progress in the children and families is by far the most rewarding. Most children come to Playspace withdrawn and overwhelmed by options, but they soon burst out of their shells and will be sad to leave each shift.

Some children are in the pre-school stage and learn the fundamentals of playing and sharing before they even get to school and excel over their peers as a result. 

How have you seen the Playspace Program impact children?
Absolutely. I work in Developmental Psychology and to see kids come to Playspace who are lagging developmentally transform and thrive after just a few weeks, is tremendous and spectacular. 

Are there any standout stories, relationships or successful outcomes that have really stayed with you?
There are so many. I had a 3-year-old boy who struggled with language development go from making frustrated grunts to effective, non-verbal communication in the months he was in Playspace.

How has volunteering with Horizons changed your perception of homelessness in Massachusetts?
As a formerly homeless youth myself, I was often involuntary confronted with the harsh, negative perception of homelessness in Massachusetts already but Horizons has given me an opportunity to reciprocate some of the goodwill and humanity kindly offered to my family when we were struggling.

” Horizons holds such a special place in my heart because it allows children a safe place for children to just be kids.”

To learn more about becoming a PAL, click here. Trainings are held regularly across the state!