The Learning Spring School (source: http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-product-design/nice-shades-on-new-yorks-learning-spring-school.html)
Ever since my first year at Friends, I have been volunteering at the Learning Spring Elementary School at the corner of 20th Street and 2nd Avenue. Founded in 2001, the school educates high-functioning children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (HF-ASD). Learning Spring helps children from an early age to gain skills that they need to function in the wider world. During my time volunteering at the school, I have helped out wherever I have been needed, from giving kids a hand at the library to teaching them how to type in the computer lab.
I first found out about Learning Spring shortly after I started at Friends Seminary in tenth grade. Hoping to find out about some of the service opportunities nearby Friends, I met with Rachel Peterson, Friends’ Director of Community Service at the time, and she mentioned that Learning Spring would accept student volunteers. She noted that Friends had a partnership with the Learning Spring whereby children from Learning Spring would periodically come to Friends to play with the children there. Volunteering at Learning Spring seemed like a fascinating and rare opportunity, so with Rachel’s help I quickly established my volunteering relationship with the school. During my time volunteering at Learning Spring, I have been able to help make the lives of some of the school’s children just a little better. My time at the school has also made me more patient and understanding as I have helped the children with their behavioral difficulties and have gotten to know both them and the teachers over the years. I have immensely valued my time volunteering at Learning Spring.
Over spring break, I returned to Stepping Stones daycare after attending there during my nursery and Pre-K years to help with the children and tidy up around the building. When I was there I helped lay down cots which are plastic woven bed designed for smaller kids to sleep during nap time. I also swept dirty places in and out of the building as well as taking out garbage from each classroom. Along with those other takes, I brought the lunch from the kitchen to every classroom which sped up the lunch process to help nap time come sooner for kids. While being there I noticed the flow of everything throughout the building went met much faster and I felt like I was actually making an impact unlike other service opportunities I have participated in.
While at my old daycare, the experience was a very unique one because of the how annoying and obnoxious the kids seemed. Sometimes the teachers would lose patience very rapidly with the children and they would have to raise their voice or put them separate from their students. Also the students would snitch on other students for ANYTHING to get them in trouble. There would be points when I would think “wow these kids are very annoying” but then I noticed that I saw a little of my self in those kids because I was just like them when I was young and that they would think the same thing when they get older. It made me realize how much I have matured.
For the past couple months I have been volunteering at a basketball clinic in downtown Manhattan at a non-profit organization called Downtown Community Center. I worked as a coach with a group of fourth and fifth graders. This organization allows children to participate in sports-related activities even if they do not possess the monetary ability to compensate for the sessions. Here, I have helped children improve their basketball skills and abilities, either by assisting them when doing various drills or giving them pointers during their games. I developed many relationships with these children, often laughing on the sideline and sharing some of our basketball adventures. Many of these kids seemed to look up to me and the other coaches, taking what we said quite seriously. They listened intently anytime we were giving directions or instructions and they loved to play. Often it was difficult to get them out of the gym after the session had concluded. It was great to give children, some of whom could not normally afford these lessons, the opportunity to play basketball and advance their skills. It was a special experience to witness the improvement in these kids, and see their desire to get better and improve their competitiveness in games.