I signed up to be a writing coach to fourth graders at a school in Washington Heights one morning over winter break. They had just read a book about a boy who got his town to invest in his kite-making business, so the students’ assignment was to come up with a product or service and go through all the steps of making a business model that would convince hypothetical investors they had a legitimate idea. The worksheets they had asked them to imagine everything from the name of their company, to their advertising, to actually estimating start-up costs and their profit per unit. It was exhausting, not because they were fourth graders, but because starting a business is a lot of work! I was impressed by the children’s perseverance. I was also struck by how open the students were to sharing their ideas with us volunteers (who were all women! woooo! women are the future!), even though they had never met any of us. All I had to do was walk up to one of them and ask them about their product and they were ready to talk about it and take my suggestions. I also enjoyed watching the event’s organizer, Milly, in action. She had not met the students before, but learned most of their names by the end of the two hours. Children say surprising things sometimes, and she did such a good job of validating their answers even if they did not move the class along. Working with kids is a skill, and it was a joy to watch someone so good at it!
The organization I worked with is called Behind the Book. (http://www.behindthebook.org/)
Ever since I was in kindergarten, I attended the bag decorating event for Gods Love We Deliver. I was always thrilled that something as little as drawing on a large white bag could be something that brought joy to many other people, whether they were the bag recipients or the school community that looks at the finished works in the meeting house. This year was the second year that I could engage in this activity from another perspective of the event. I handed out bags and ribbons and made sure everyone had the perfect amount of glue-sticks to allow them to make their designs. But along the way I was also able to make some bags of my own (and eat some cookies, Yum!). It was only when carrying hundreds of bags onto the balcony of the meeting house that the full weight of our efforts hit me. Such small things can really add up when we all worked together: I only made 4 bags, but if everyone each made 4 bags, we’d have tons of them! This event is truly one of my favorite school traditions and I hope to work some more with it next holiday season!
Towards the end of August, I volunteered at the Children’s Museum of the East End, which provides children with fun and educational programs. I was really interested in volunteering there since as I child it was my favorite place to go during the summers. It’s filled with many games and activities kids can take part in. The museum encourages children to learn in a fun and productive way by offering many different rooms where the kids learn about the environment, math, do puzzles etc. My favorite section of the room was the entrance, which had different animals and little posters with facts about the animal. I volunteered on a Saturday from nine to six, helping set up for two birthday parties. I also walked around the museum and cleaned up any messes left behind by the kids. At the end of the day, I helped close the museum by helping set up the rooms again.
Link to Website: https://www.cmee.org
Back in July, I volunteered for the Randy Abreu campaign for City Council, District 14. One of the main things that caught my interest about the campaign was about how it focused on progressivism and youth. Abreu was only 28, yet he had worked on the Obama campaign and gained the support of Bernie Sanders. The other people who were working the campaign were all college students, and it felt like a small yet tight-knight group of people. The high school volunteers came mostly from schools in the Bronx, and going to school in lower Manhattan, it was nice to have a sort of change of pace. Mostly, the volunteers went out to canvass, and seeing parts of neighborhood (Fordham Hill) I was not very accustomed to was very interesting, especially since I got to interact with a wide variety of people. It was fascinating to see which type of person supported Fernando Cabrera, the more conservative candidate, and who supporter Abreu. While Randy did not end up winning the election, he still did well for a new candidate, getting in second place with about 20 percent of the votes.
Over the summer, I volunteered for the Halcottsville Fire Department Auxiliary, a very small organization that works with the small town’s volunteer fire department. The focus of the fundraiser that I helped with was to raise money for the renovation of the old fire department building, currently rotting away on main street,with the purpose of making the building into a small museum about the town’s history. Just like the old building, Halcottsville has seen better days, so this is also an effort to revitalize the town by bringing in people who might not otherwise stop while also making the town more presentable. The event was a “Penny Social,” a mix of garage sale and auction, so throughout the event I was delivering to people their winnings and moving dozens of metal folding chairs and tables. I was mostly working with people who I have known for a long time, and it was a great feeling to give back to my community.
This past summer was my third summer shadowing a cardiologist at RUSH hospital in Chicago. My work this past summer was similar to in recent summers- I watched a lot of angiograms and spent time in the patient center. Unlike in previous years, this past summer I was able to observe more complicated surgeries, including a seven-hour CABG (coronary artery bypass graft). Additionally, I did rounds in the Coronary Care Unit with a team of cardiologists, fellows, and pharmacists. It is particularly meaningful to be able to see the relationships between doctors and patients at RUSH. Similarly to last summer, it was interesting to see how cardiac medicine has progressed in the year since I had been there last. It is really fascinating and rewarding to be able to gain some insight about such a fascinating and evolving field.
As someone who attended the Halloween party as a lower schooler many years ago, it felt especially good to set up the halloween party for new lower schoolers. In my years the haunted hallway was a series of claustrophobic boxes children would crawl through while being abused by high schoolers from above; it was a terrifying and somehow fun experience. But it felt good to change the halloween party and the way the kids have fun. The new haunted hallway set up seemed much safer yet still scary and fun, plus I had a great time hiding behind curtains and yelling boo at passersby. I also felt like the set up with plenty of games, a chocolate fountain, and fun ways of obtaining candy, was a wholesome experience and a much better experience for the kids than it was in my day. It felt very good to emulate and improve on the fun I used to have at the Friends lower school party.
Over the summer, I came back to Bideawee for my third year of service with them. I was responsible to doing the laundry, cleaning the rooms, and playing with the cats and dogs. I got to volunteer with my sister. I enjoyed spending time with her while being productive.
It was exciting to be one of the older and more experienced volunteers as I was able to teach the younger volunteers how to do the laundry, and I was able to do more work by myself. Each time, after I finished cleaning the rooms, I would sit in the cat rooms. As soon as I sat down, Pumpkin would jump into my lap. Pumpkin is classified as a red, which means that she can be very frisky. I felt very honored to see her sweet side.
I also got to learn more about Bideawee as an organization. The CEO of Bideawee was trying to shut down the location where I was working. I was so moved by the community’s response as they made it clear how important Bideawee was to them.
Last summer I participated in an oyster cage building activity on June 16. We were split up into groups who worked on different parts of the cages. I was part of the group who cut sheets of wire from a large roll of cage wire. We used clippers and wore gloves to cut the wire sheets for the cages. Next we clipped off any bits of wire that stuck out undesirably. These would get in the way later, so we had to remove them. We left some of the bits on each side, as they would be bent to allow the sheet to clasp onto another sheet. Next the sheets went to a different station that bent the sheets in half. This station formed each sheet into the desired shape of the cage. Next, the bent sheets were brought back to my group. We bent the bits that we left on the sheets from the first clipping and connected them to another sheet of wire. Once we had done this, the cage was completed. After we had finished making all the cages we needed to, I swept the floor for metal scraps, and put away clippers and gloves along with three other volunteers. My experience at BOP was very pleasant. Although I got a large sore bump on my hand from all the pressure during clipping the wire, the atmosphere of the houses we were building the cages in was relaxing. The Billion Oyster Project’s mission is to distribute 1 billion oysters to about 100 acres of reefs located in the Hudson River. These oysters would help clean the water and hopefully clean and bring life back to the river. You can visit the Billion Oyster Project at https://billionoysterproject.org