This summer I decided to volunteer at Cooke Center for Learning and Development, an independent school for special needs students. I volunteered for over a month and spent most of my time as a teacher’s assistant at the lower school and middle school program. In the mornings, I would usually help out with the Music, Art, and Speech classes. During the afternoon, I would monitor recess, lunch, and PE. Nearly all of my work was one-on-one with the students, which allowed me to get to know them on a personal level. Everyone who I met was unbelievably friendly, making my experience at Cooke unforgettable. The students’ sheer excitement at learning and mastering of new skills as well as their perseverance, optimism, and joy were contagious, and made me wonder who benefited most from our relationships. If anyone would like to do community service that involves working with kids this summer in the city I highly recommend volunteering at Cooke.
Over this past summer, I worked as a counselor-in-training at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture Farm Camp. It was a four week program that entailed one week of training and three weeks of hands-on work with young kids. Stone Barns Center is nonprofit farm which practices and promotes sustainable agriculture. Throughout my time on the farm, I worked with 8 and 9 year olds, helping them develop farming, cooking, and collaboration skills, while advancing my own leadership abilities and farming literacy. We got to spend all day outside, shadowing different employees, from the greenhouse, to the field, to the compost station. Because Stone Barns Center is attached to the renowned Blue Hill Restaurant, we also got to learn from the chefs about their daily routines and what it takes to truly be a farm to table restaurant. The overall experience of working on the farm was wonderful. Because there was a good, even mixture of learning with other high school students my age and teaching our knowledge to younger kids, everyday was exciting. If you love the outdoors, are interested in sustainable agriculture, or love working with children, I highly recommend the counselor-in-training program at the Stone Barns Center upstate.
(Pictured is the main field at the Stone Barns Center and the restaurant Blue Hill which lies in the middle of the farm.)
Last August I had the opportunity to go on a service learning trip with the Friends soccer team to Tobago. It was a wonderful experience to visit the island and get to know kids who were in school there. My favorite part of the trip was when we held several soccer training sessions with girls and boys who were interested in the sport. It was the first time that I had ever taught anyone how to play soccer and I loved it. The kids were all really engaged and enthusiastic. It gave me the idea that I would like to coach younger kids in soccer once I recover from my concussion. We also brought soccer equipment to Tobago, such as cleats and soccer balls, which we distributed to the kids who were in the soccer program at the school we visited. It was nice to be able to give the children equipment that they really needed in order to be able to continue to pursue this wonderful sport. They were so appreciative, and I enjoyed helping the kids find the right equipment for them. Although Tobago is a small island, it is extremely dedicated to excellence in sports, as demonstrated by the fact that Trinidad and Tobago have won 19 medals at the Olympics. I felt privileged to be able to have this service learning experience in such a great community.