For the 9th grade YPI service project, my group decided to work with the Coalition for the Homeless. When we visited the Coalition, we were welcomed with kindness and were impressed by their many programs. We learned that not only did they help homeless people directly by providing them with shelter and food, they sought to end homelessness by attacking changing the laws of NYC to accommodate homeless people better. I grew much more enthusiastic about helping the Coaltition as our visit went on and was touched by the stories they told us about helping their clients. Now when I see homeless people on the streets, I try not to ignore them and give them any spare change I have. Working with the coalition really changed my perspective on homeless people.
On Service Day, the ninth grade YPI finalists presented their non-profits to a panel of judges comprised of both our peers and judges from the YPI project. I was lucky enough to be one of the finalists who presented that day. This initiative has made me realize that education inequality is a much more pressing issue than I had thought and it has impacted a large number of a diverse amount of peoples, not necessarily a specific demographic. I learned how to work together with my team and how to reach out to big organizations because originally I was scared to email our organization. I asked about internships offered at our organization because I was really considering working with them in the future. I thought that this project deviated a bit from the curriculum but it was a nice break and it did fit well with how we were learning about social issues that rose up in ancient civilizations.
For the first part of this year, I was a tour guide for the admission’s office. I gave tours to prospective students and their families. I enjoyed getting to talk to the students about my favorite parts of Friends. In preparing to be a tour guide, I learned a lot of interesting facts about the school that I did not know before. It was nice getting to share the experiences I have had in different classes with the prospective families and highlight which teachers I thought were particularly amazing. I saw one of the boys I gave a tour to later on when he was visiting the school as an admitted student. He said he loves Friends and I really hope he comes in the fall. It was a great experience being able to see the future faces of Friends, a place I love so much and will sadly be leaving next year.
Last Saturday my dad and I spent the day grocery shopping for, cooking, and delivering meals to the homeless people at the Friends Shelter. We made dinner, dessert, and breakfast for the shelter. I have delivered meals to the shelter several times over the course of my time at Friends and I really love doing it. I see the space that transforms into a shelter at night everyday when I’m at school and I like that I can help people who are so close to the school community. When we deliver the food, the bed are set up and the people who collect the food from us are so grateful. It makes me so happy to see the Friends values alive at all hours of the day. I plan to continue delivering meals to the shelter even after I leave Friends.
On service day, the 12th grade volunteered at The Million Oyster Project, a non-profit that is based in New York City. The Million Oyster Project is an ecosystem restoration project that is hoping to bring one billion oysters back to the New York Harbor. Oysters have the ability to filter water while also providing habitats for other marine life. Due to pollution, over harvesting and other detrimental human factors, the population of Oysters in the New York Harbor has significantly decreased so that oysters are “functionally extinct”. This non-profit works with schools and volunteers to educate people on the importance of oysters and marine life when preserving an ecosystem. Last week our grade went to Governors Island and participated in two different workshops. My group first started by gathering, washing, and filing away oyster shells that have been gathered by and sent to The Million Oyster Project by restaurants and bars all over the city. This was a cold and somewhat complicated task; however, we made an assembly line and the process went smoothly. In the afternoon, our group helped to assemble metal crates The Million Oyster Project, marine biologists and other students would use to examine and study different oyster species and shells before being returned to the harbor. It was a welcomed change to the colder and more laboring morning task, but equally as important. It was a fun day spent bonding with friends and getting to know more about the importance of not just oysters in our harbor’s ecosystem, but the importance of marine life in general when preserving and protecting our water. I look forward to seeing (and hopefully participating in) more connections between The Million Oyster Project, Friends, and other schools around the city!
This year I was lucky enough to work for Caring Kind; an organization working with the care taking and treatment of Alzheimer’s patients. During the walk earlier this year during the fall, I was able to volunteer at a booth selling good to raise money for the cause. I sold was able to sell bracelets, dog toys and apparel. As well as, I was able to participate and join the walk after my shift was done at the booth. Seeing everyone so enthusiastic to stand up for such an amazing cause was inspiring and taught me so much about the effect of what everyones actions can truly do. The money that was donated went specifically to people in the New York area that couldn’t afford their own care, and ever dollar made a significant impact. My work at the walk inspired me to volunteer more and more with the organization, and over the course of the year I have spent hours collaborating with several members of the organization.
Throughout this past year I have been volunteering at the GO Project (http://www.goprojectnyc.org/) where I had been volunteering as a committed volunteer, and then a leader volunteer. For the first half of the school year I had been a committed volunteer. This meant that every Saturday I would go to the LREI school and be a TA/tutor for a class of 5th graders who either struggled in school, or needed a support system. I got assigned the class of 5B and quickly found relationships between the kids and the other volunteers. However, about half way through the leader volunteer needed to leave, so the GO Project asked me to step up and I did. Now in addition to the other duties, I spoke with the head staff about issues and strategies that could be used in the classroom. I am very very happy that I found the GO Project and will be returning next year.
For completing my service in 10th grade I had decided to work with Zani’s Furry Friends (http://zanisfurryfriends.org) a non-profit dedicated to help the lives and well-being of animals in New York city. I had started off my calling them and just asking what I could do. Since I was under the age-limit at the time I was not allowed to help take care of the animals so I suggested a possible supplies-drive. A middle-school club and I teamed up through Claire to collect blankets for the shelter. The middle school club completely surprised me as they collected around 25 blankets for the shelter which I dropped off and helped out at their central park-gathering.
Around the World Day has been one of my favorite events throughout my years in high school. I have always enjoyed seeing my classmates in a new light as they show off their personal cultures. Being of a diverse origin (or being more noticeably different than the majority) can be very alienating, even in a community like Friends. However, events like Around the World Day remind me that there is so much more diversity that is hidden below the surface every other day of the year. It makes me wonder why, in a community like our own, everyday does not feel like Around the World Day.
I helped organize this event as co-leader of RAAD (Raising Awareness Advocating Diversity), but also as someone who wants our community to feel welcome to share their cultures willingly, without judgement, and on their own terms. I hope that this event helped members of our community to learn more about cultures they had never previously experienced, but to also find a closer connection to cultures outside of their own through their friends, peers, students, etc. I have learned at Friends and through numerous diversity conferences that proximity drives empathy with drives us closer to achieving social justice. For the past two years as I have helped my grandmother as she wakes up before 5am just to fry aloo pies for my table, I have learned more about my own culture. During those times, I have always hoped that I could somehow help the Friends community to connect with the tangible quality of “the other” that our country so often rejects by seeing a representation of a multitude of different cultures from people they know and love!
– Jada Jameson
Every Sunday from 9 -11am, I go to the Abyssinian Baptist Church to assist in their Youth Ministry. Instead of going upstairs to the Sanctuary, I stay downstairs with the Sunday School and participate as a Youth Worship Leader. In this position, I help lead devotion for the kids as well as help the Sunday School Teachers. This year the Sunday School put on two productions, one for Christmas and one for Palm Sunday, both of which I assisted as a Stage Manager.
My church community has been extremely influential in my upbringing. By helping out with Sunday School, I am able to give back to the community that helped keep me grounded and guide me throughout life. I hope to have the same impact on the kids in Sunday School as my teachers had on me.