Over the summer on a 5 week trip, I had the unique opportunity to live with a family in Medina de Rioseco, Spain for three weeks. During that three week period, I tutored my host siblings, Maria and Mateo, in English. They were taking English classes over the summer. They had to do projects and worksheets. Several times a week, I would tutor Maria and Mateo teaching them grammar, working on reading comprehension, and teaching about American culture. Before each lesson, I would think of ways to make the lessons exciting and educational. My host siblings caught on quickly. My summer experience gave me a new perspective on bilingual education. I definitely will incorporate tutoring into the community service I perform in the future, and I will always look fondly upon my experience.
I am an intern at the GO Project: a summer and weekend program for kids in under-resourced New York City public schools who need extra help with reading, writing, and math. This summer I volunteered in a classroom with eight and nine-year-olds. I started noticing that Steven, one of my students, would lie his head on the desk every time we had a writing exercise to do. I sat with him as he tried to work, but each time he would throw his pencil down, discouraged and upset. One day, he shouted, “I’m just not good at writing!” As someone who gave up on math because of how I was made to feel at his age, I knew I had a responsibility to act. I told him that of course he was good at writing, and that, although it was a little bit confusing in that moment, there was nothing physical that made him bad at it. I encouraged him to keep trying and supported his struggles as best I could. About a week later, I started to see that he was completing all of his writing exercises and giving his best effort even if he didn’t fully understand. He stopped resting his head on the desk and dropping his pencil with despair. I can’t say that Steven is going to be the next Hemingway, but at least he knows that writing is something he can try.
Because there are so few things that students can control throughout their education, it is important that they are surrounded by unconditionally supportive and non-judgemental adults. Although I have no personal experience attending an under-resourced school, I know how essential confidence is when trying to ensure equitable education to a group of students. Part of why I have found work at the GO Project so rewarding is that I can use what I’ve learned from my own academic struggles to be understanding of my students’ needs and offer them the appropriate help. No student should have to struggle, and there is nothing innate that makes girls better at writing and boys better at math. I hope that through my work at the GO Project and in the future I can make younger generations aware of that.
Last Friday, my family received about 100 boxes from Amazon-some which we ordered directly and others that came from extended family and friends. In each of these boxes, there was innumerable socks, tiny boots for tiny feet, hand warmers, and ponchos. These things were to go to the Syrian Refugees in a refugee camp in Greece that’s made of mostly orphaned kids that lost their parents in the migration process. This small camp of 80 inhabitants was running short on supplies and preparation for the rainy and cold months that followed. I spent my Friday afternoon organizing all these supplies into 80 little packages, one for each kid. Then on Saturday, I moved all 80 packages to a synagogue near our school that was serving as a collection point. These gathered supplies would then be shipped directly to the refugees who needed them most through an organization that dispenses medical supplies to areas of crisis around the world.
This experience was eye-opening to say the least. Such a small amount of supplies and effort potentially saved the lives of 80 children. It was neat to pool our supplies with those of other members of my school community. It was good to feel that these contributions were going directly to those in need—that I’m not just blindly donating to a large organization without knowing exactly where the money is going. I’m making a difference in individuals’ lives.
Although service day is a great way to give back to the community, I feel like there are more important and necessary causes to help than just gardening, for example helping deliver or pack food or maybe even cleaning litter off the street. I appreciate how the school cares about giving back to the community I feel like a more local cause could also be better to eliminate traveling times.
In the depths of Staten Island, a great battle begins. The bushes stand in my way, but I perservere. The thorns tear at my arms, but I press through, because the fertilizer must be spread. It hurt a bit, but my will to garden and help the spread of nature was stronger. As I lurk under the bush, forcing my way through the twigs and thorns, and energized by the will to help I am filled with DETERMINATION.
With hunger being one of the most prevalent issues our nation and world must face today, I have become very interested in finding ways to help bring food to those unable to get the resources others are fortunate enough to afford. I became especially inspired by a PSA on the PATH train which said that the number of homeless children in NYC has increased by the thousands over the past several years and that some records should be fixed, not broken. With this in mind, I went to the Hoboken Homeless Shelter to see how I could help. Last year, I helped cook, serve, and clean up dinner for a large group of homeless people. Everyone I worked with was so inspiring and selfless and made me want to continue supporting my local shelter. Doing any type of service is rewarding, but helping my own community and being able to work with such an amazing group of employees and volunteers made this experience especially gratifying. I definitely plan on continuing my volunteer work with the shelter and hope to also get involved with City Harvest, an organization that helps redistribute food, eliminating much of the food waste in our city.
With the 11th grade service theme of hunger in the city, helping to serve meals at St. John’s Bread and Life soup kitchen in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn felt like truly the most vital and direct way to be combating the increasingly prevelent issue of hunger in New York. Though the physical tasks of serving people from all walks of life- both young and old- were mundane actions, the results of those actions felt so vital–seeing the recipients of the food enjoying their meals- that the acts themselves felt so inhernetly necessary, no matter how small. Seeing the faces of the people as they walked by and recieved their food put my own life, my own concerns into perpective. The prevelence of the issue they were facing–not even having enough food to eat-was so immedate. Suddenly the issues of my own life seemed so trivial in comparison. Of what consequence is my failing something as unnecessary as a math test, really, when there are people all around me who can’t afford the basic necessities of life? I felt the most gratified to have had a chance to feel like we were really helping people, in any meager way possible, and being able to reimagine my own existence felt like rewarding side effect of the whole experience, one in which I now feel so lucky to have taken part.