Over the duration of the summer I was a CIT at a Mass Audubon camp in Massachusetts. I worked with kids
from ages 6- 12. I was a camper at the same camp since I was seven years old so it was interesting having to
change roles this year but I enjoyed it very much. As a my main job was just helping and supporting the
counselors in any way possible from leading a game for the kids or getting equipment for the next activity. It was
great to finally give off the knowledge that I learned when I was a camper to the current camper now. After this
experience as a counselor in training I would definitely look into being a counselor either at the same camp in a
few years from now or a different camp some time sooner. I believe that the most important thing that I learned this
summer as a CIT had to be that kids at that age have to go to the bathroom every five minutes! I hope next year I will
be able to be a counselor in training at the same camp again.
This summer I interned at an organization called Earth Matter, a composting learning center and urban farm located on Governors Island. Earth Matter was founded in 2009 and seeks to reduce the amount of organic waste that is misdirected into the general trash flow. They hope to accomplish this by encouraging leadership in community composting and educating people of all ages about compost. Earth Matter collects all the waste that is produced on Governors Island as well as household food scraps gathered from greenmarkets around the city. As an intern, I helped to process this organic waste, care for the animals at the center (chickens, goats and rabbits), and tend various crops. I also was in charge of maintaining a compost device called the three bin system.
Along with these general tasks there was always a lot of activity at Earth Matter. Every Friday volunteers and groups ranging from young children to adults came to the compost learning center. I helped to lead these volunteers in various tasks and taught them more about the processes of composting, animal care, and gardening. While at times it could be hard to manage a large group, it was also amazing to witness the amount of work we could collectively complete in a matter of hours.
My overall experience at Earth Matter was extremely rewarding because I felt like I was making a tangible difference. Sometimes it can be pretty overwhelming and depressing to think about how much we waste as a society. However, even though the amount of food scraps we were processing at Earth Matter on a daily basis was relatively small, it’s a step in the right direction. I realized by educating others we can change people’s mentalities when it comes to trash. Through education and optimism we can make a difference and reduce the amount of waste produced. Overall, it was fantastic to learn more about composting and share this information with a broad array of people.
Over the summer, I volunteered at Lenox Hill Hospital. Although I had been doing this throughout the year, during the summer I was able to go multiple times a week and feel more apart of the community. I worked out of the volunteer office. I answered the phone and did errands. Some of the errands included delivering flowers, selling raffle tickets, assisting patients, transporting blood, and helping specific units in the hospital. I really enjoyed this experience because it allowed me to see the inner workings of a hospital. There are so many job opportunities and different positions in a hospital. Many faculty members refer to it as being its own city. I will continue working at Lenox Hill Hospital throughout this school year!
This past summer, I volunteered at Star Learning Center (http://www.goddard.org/page/tutoring-at-star-learning-center-58.html). Star Learning Center is an organization part of Goddard Riverside Community Center. The Center provides one-to-one academic tutoring for low-income students in grades 2-12. With an extensive resource center, a well-stocked library, computers, and dedicated volunteer tutors, the Star Learning Center helps more than 300 students each year find critical support. I spent my time there tutoring a seventh grader, L’Orena, in reading and writing. During our first session, I recommended that we read Catcher in the Rye, my favorite novel, together in addition to her school work. This was a fun and exciting way for her to begin practicing reading with enjoyable books, rather than doing exercises from school. By the end of our time together, L’Orena became a great reader and writer. It was satisfying to see her succeed.
Over the summer, I volunteered at my old preschool, Hanson Place Child Development Center, in Downtown Brooklyn for 2 months over the summer. While I was there, I took care of 1-2 year old kids and helped them read, play, and learn. Besides working with the kids, I also helped the teachers feed the kids, walk them, take care of them, etc. I believe this helps the community because it teaches young minds little things that will help them later in life, and by starting them out at a young age they will be more prepared in later years of school. This experience improved me greatly, for It helped me understand the basics of taking care of/ helping children with their learning and daily life, and it also helped me learn what it is like to be in a teachers shoes, teaching children to read, play with other kids, and many other things. Compared to other people’s volunteer work, this helped little children learn what many of us learned when we were their age, and it was like passing on the torch to the next generation of kids. By working with those kids and spreading the knowledge I know, and some of the knowledge that I learned when I use to go to school their, I felt like I was giving back to my community and my old teachers who gave so much to me. Overall I had a great experience and would love to do it again next year.
This summer I worked at a day camp in Ocean Beach, a town in Fire Island. I was a group counselor for the 8 year olds, which entailed walking the kids from activity to activity and playing with them while at activities. I swam in the ocean with my group, played sports with my group, went fishing with my group, and much more, including using countless strategies to try to get the kids to walk faster. Despite my role as an authority figure over the kids, the bond I formed with several of the kids created such a friendly environment that was fun for the kids and me as well. I won’t forget the moment when I asked one of my campers what his favorite activities were, and he responded, “I like sailing…and I like boating a lot too, but I think my favorite is playing with you.” Bonding with my 8 year olds as the summer went on was rewarding, but what was most rewarding was knowing that I was helping out the Ocean Beach Youth Group (OBYG) community. I have been going to this camp summer after summer ever since I was a camper at 4 years old and have grown up seeing the same kids every year. I still see my old counselors on the beach on the weekends, many of whom have jobs during the week in the city. From the close relationships that I’ve developed and the memories that I’ve cherished, the OBYG community has given so much to me. It was beyond meaningful to be able to help the community that is so special to me.
I spent all of August in Hawaii and during that time I was teaching young kids how to play basketball. I taught them the basics of the game, I also trained them mentally and physically. I ran the basketball camp in my gated community, there was a lot of responsibility on my back this summer. I was left with 3 or 4 kids for 2 hours 3 times a week for a month. It was incredibly challenging to keep 7-10 year olds focused and engaged in my teaching. I tried new ways to make the kids not get bored every day, some methods worked some did not. The method that worked the best was to make the kids laugh and to not do fundamental drills for long. My patience was also being constantly tested by the kids, at the beginning my patience was bad but by the end it was amazing.
I got attached to some of the kids and I felt sad when they left. I honestly did have favorite kids and I treated them better than other kids. I will definitely try and not do this next summer because the kids who were not the favorites got upset occasionally. A lot of parents did not care about the basketball, they cared more about getting their kids off their hands for two hours. This annoyed me because my services are to teach basketball and train kids, not babysitting. Some of the kids had never touched a basketball before, which made it hard for me to do group drills because everyone was at such different skill levels. But, overall I had a wonderful time and it was an amazing experience.
This summer I worked at two different art camps, one at an elementary school in Phoenix, Arizona, and the other at a studio in Dumbo. Each summer, these places host a day camp for kids to make art. At the Awakening Seed School in Phoenix, I worked as a teacher’s assistant, organizing activities and helping a class of 5-year-olds with their art projects. At the AWE studio in Dumbo, I helped kids of all ages with their art projects and the teacher in preparing the studio for each day of classes.
These two service experiences were really memorable and fun, as I got to participate in a side of school and art that I’ve never taken part in before. It was interesting to see what it’s like to handle a large group of children armed with messy art supplies (there’s no escape from the glitter). I learned a lot about dealing with kids and helping them out with their problems, be they art-related or not. It was also great to hang out with kids much younger than me and see their more innocent views on the world.
This summer, I worked as a lifeguard and swim instructor at Saint Bartholomew’s Cathedral on Lexington avenue. Originally, I planned to lifeguard exclusively, but when the need arose for an extra swim instructor, I was also put in that role. I worked with kids between the ages of 3 and 13, with varying levels of ability; I found myself keeping one child afloat while shouting at another to slow down! This was hard work, as aside from remembering names, I also had to remember levels of ability, fears, and other crucial pieces of information. The work was, however, extremely rewarding, as in explaining techniques, I gained a better understanding of them myself.
I gained a much better understanding of how to relate to people through this experience. One of the most difficult things that most children have to overcome when learning to swim is learning to get over the fear of going underwater and floating on one’s back. Trying to persuade a terrified six year old to do either of these things is an arduous, and often extremely frustrating process. I quickly learned that just asking them to do it over and over was NOT the way to go. Instead, I found that if i did it first, and showed that although it might look scary it is not that difficult, the children who i taught were very reassured.
This past summer I spent about six and a half weeks working at an organization called CRF (Coral Restoration Foundation) down in Key Largo, Florida. Two huge parts of the Keys’ economy are diving as well as the tourism opportunities that come with it and fishing. However, over the course of the past thirty or so years, the reefs surrounding this area have been decimated due to the multitude of hurricanes the area has experienced, overfishing, and water pollution among a variety of other factors. Thus, with this depletion of coral, the whole reef ecosystem has been jeopardized as well as the Keys’ economy. To combat this, the Coral Restoration Foundation works to grow coral and plant it back on the reef as well as spread awareness about this issue.
Before I even arrived at the Coral Restoration Foundation, I thought I would be on the front lines of the effort, scuba diving daily and planting coral by the ton. So, when my first task was to build a PVC pipe tree, I was a little surprised. These trees are used to hang the growing coral underwater until they are ready to be planted in a reef. I spent hours on end building trees and putting them together. I thought this was merely a warmup task and that soon I would be getting in the water. Once again, I was mistaken. I spent much of my days working in the education center, answering phone calls and helping to teach visitors about CRF’s cause and effort. These conversations were rewarding as I felt as if this dialogue was helping spread awareness of this issue and shining a bigger light on it.
On my last day of work, I finally received an opportunity to get in the water. Myself, along with fifteen or so other staff members and individuals, went out to a reef, collected the fully grown coral from the PVC trees and then planted them underwater. This experience was a great finale to all my work, as I now got to see all my hard work come to fruition in the form of real, tangible results. However, this day also led to me to another realization. Plenty of people want to go underwater and scuba dive, and CRF will never find a shortage of individuals who want to do that. Thus, its the other aspects of the organization, some of the things that I took part in, that is where Coral Restoration foundation needs the most help. I realized that service can take many different forms, and even if it feels like what you’re doing is not as flashy or “cool” as some of the other methods of service, it is often times that those types often result in the biggest impact, which is truly what service is about.
Coral Restoration Foundation’s website: coralrestoration.org