SAN DIEGO -- John Greenwell says that volunteering and giving back nurture his soul. As such, he participates in numerous organizations both in and out of the LGBT community that help those in need.
The 33-year-old seems to never have a day off. If he's not working, he's participating in a community service project, or in meetings helping to plan ways to make the world a better place, or learning how to be a better leader. As a schoolteacher, Greenwell is also able to instill his sense of service in the students whose lives he touches everyday.
Greenwell was born and raised in San Diego -- "Yes, I'm one of those rare native San Diegans," he says -- but moved away to live in New York City, Quebec City in Canada, Fez in Morocco, and Chicago for a few years. After spending time in these various cities across the globe, he moved back to San Diego eight years ago and says he can't imagine living anywhere else.
"I love to explore the world and travel, but I always appreciate my hometown of San Diego," Greenwell said.
Oh, and this successful community-minded gentlemen is single.
Learn more about Greenwell below:
What organization(s) do you volunteer for, and why?
I volunteer for many groups in the community. As a board member of the San Diego Leadership Alliance, I’m serving as one of the two co-chairs for the New Leaders Council Institute this year. I was a fellow in last year’s class and am enjoying being a part of an organization that trains San Diego’s next generation of progressive leaders.
I’m also on the new board for San Diego’s chapter of Gay For Good, a volunteer organization that works with a community organization outside of the “gayborhood.” Gay For Good has a great mission: to give up a few hours of your time to do good in the greater San Diego community. We’ve recently collaborated with Mama’s Kitchen, Feeding America San Diego, and Habitat For Humanity’s ReStore. We have a great volunteer opportunity in City Heights on March 2 with the Watershed Avengers. It’s posted on the Gay For Good San Diego Facebook page.
I also stay civically engaged by volunteering with various political campaigns. I've done door-to-door canvassing, phone banking and literature dropping for a few recently-elected politicians and recently-passed ballot measures.
Another group that I perform volunteer work with is the Young Professionals Council, a program of The San Diego LGBT Community Center. Through that organization, I've supported various community events such as AIDS Walk San Diego, Dining Out For Life and Family Matters.
I try to volunteer for as many organizations as possible because it is such a simple way to stay connected to the community. We’re a city of volunteers! I’ve met incredible people and continue to be humbled by how many amazing volunteers and non-profit organizations there are in San Diego that make this city America’s Finest City.
What motivates you to do the volunteer work you do?
I was raised in a very religious family and found a more profound meaning with my spiritual beliefs through volunteerism. A few hours working with a team of dedicated people is a great way to spend a weekend afternoon. Life is just richer and better when you do good things for others and I believe goodness finds its way back to you.
Do you volunteer because of your work, or not? And what do you do for a career?
I’m a public schoolteacher. I teach science at a local charter school. Each day, I’m interacting with kids and parents to make my community a better place. I love what I do. However, if I didn't volunteer outside of my job, my life wouldn't be as enjoyable for me. Volunteering nurtures my soul: It’s the investment I make in myself.
What is something that many people do not know about you?
I’m actually a pretty adventurous guy. This doesn't come across right away when meeting me, but I love to seek out adventure. From hiking through San Diego’s gorgeous back country to riding roller coasters, I like the excitement and intrigue the world has to offer. I've even taken groups of students on trips across the country and around the world and had them sample the local cuisine. All of the students that I took to China tried deep fried scorpion, for example. I think it’s adventurous to bring 12-, 13- and 14-year-old kids around the world and encourage them to eat things they wouldn't normally eat.
What would you like to see change in the LGBT community?
I would like to see more people from across the LGBT community join together to work for the positive changes we want to see in our community. There are community leaders wiser and more experienced than I am. I would like to find more ways to learn from them. Our youth can benefit more from this pool of talented and wise leaders.
San Diego has a huge amount of young, vibrant activists as well. When we work together, we have accomplished great things. I know marriage equality and rights for transgender individuals will happen in the next few years if we pull our energy and resources together. San Diego is often thought of as a conservative city, but in reality we have a tradition of being front-runners and pioneers on LGBT issues.
What do you like most about the local LGBT community?
San Diego has a wonderful, relaxed, and respectful feel to it. Our LGBT community reflects this. It is diverse. The LGBT community in San Diego has strong allies as well. We would not have advanced as far as we have without the courage and fortitude of our allies. They are an integral part of the LGBT community and many of us that identify as LGBT easily forget how hard it may be to come out of the closet as an ally.
What sorts of things do you do to enrich your social life other than volunteering?
I actually have a social life! Truthfully, my work responsibilities and volunteer commitments take up big chunks of time, but they are worthwhile. However, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I am lucky that my parents as well as my sister and brother-in-law and their beautiful family live in San Diego also. I enjoy swimming, hiking, and reading. I am also a big foodie. I love to cook at home and eat out. Of course, traveling is high up on my to-do list as well. I’m always planning my next big trip. I’ll be taking some students to the Galapagos Islands in South America soon and am planning a big trip to India with friends later this year.
If you could host a dinner party and invite three people (dead or alive), who would they be and why?
I would like to invite President Barack Obama, Dorothy Day and Mahatma Gandhi. All three are pioneers that made the world a better place through their kind words and actions. All three leaders served their communities with honor and dignity. I hope to be that kind of leader.
Top: Greenwell volunteering at Feeding America San Diego's Food Bank.
Middle: Greenwell with fellow community activist and friend Barb Moreno.
Bottom: Greenwell with a friend.
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