On April 29th we went to Washington DC to march on the white house. The plan was to completely surround the white house to raise awareness for global warming. The march itself was really hard. It was over 90 degrees and the streets were completely filled with people. Even though standing out in the sun all day took a lot out of me, I felt good to have helped raise awareness. It was a satisfying experience that I would like to do again in the future.
“Testimony” is a peculiar word to use about my experience at the Women’s March. The word derives from the ancient Roman tradition of men ceremonially grabbing each other’s testicles when taking an oath. One would think that, in 2017, the grabbing of genitals would be over, yet long before President Trump told the world the pleasure he took in sexually assaulting women, I knew that going to college would likely result in someone assaulting me. I knew that one in four college girls are sexually assaulted. I knew that native women had a 50% chance of being sexually assaulted. I knew that more than two thirds of hate crime homicide victims are transgender women, especially black transgender women, and that they are 1.8% more likely to suffer sexual abuse. I knew that to the white man’s dollar, Asian women make 85 cents, white women make 77 cents, black women make 63 cents, and Latina women make 54 cents. Black men make less than the white woman, and hispanic men make the same as black women. Conversion camps take LGBTQ+ youth and destroy them to their very core until they are so traumatized, they have no choice but to say they are straight. Muslims are feared just for wearing cloth on their heads or praying on a rug instead of in a pew. Hard working people are kept out of this country every day because they are seen as terrorists or rapists or drug dealers. Toxic masculinity and dehumanized femininity plagues our society with gender roles.
President Trump and Vice President Pence did not create these problems. They did not cause people to become racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or to have any other kind of prejudice. Those prejudices were already there. They elected our current president. Even if those who voted for him would actively say they did not hold these prejudices, President Trump’s hate for the aforementioned minorities was not a deal breaker for his voters. I didn’t see the Women’s March as something that came about because of the events of 2016 and early 2017, but as the breaking point of endless suffering.
Prejudice has always been a part of society, in one form or another. I am often asked, “How can an individual change things?” My answer is that I don’t think an individual can change things alone. I think the Women’s March is an example of the route to effecting change—not alone, but together, with our experiences, oppression, and privileges unifying us into a group stronger than those in power. “United we are strong” is the truest mantra. It is hierarchy within classes, races, genders, and other identities that allow those who are power to be in power. Those hierarchies are there to divide us. By uniting in our differences we can change things. That unity is what the Women’s March means to me.
My group decided to work on a health issue in Brooklyn. We researched what issues were prevalent in the population and found that diabetes was an issue in Bed Stuy and Coney Island. After comparing the statistics between the two neighborhoods, we saw that Bed Stuy population had more diabetics. Thus, we decided to work within Bed Stuy to build a clinic that would test and treat the community.
We tried to keep in mind that the income level of the neighborhood is low and that we would have to keep prices down so that people would be able to afford our help. As the budget coordinator, this task was very difficult. The base cost for the medical help we required was already over the what we had expected. Upon consulting with the site coordinator, it was obvious that the price of any real estate or rental was also going to be very expensive. Tacking on additional costs were also major minor things that piled up into high annual costs, but it was easier to find lower prices on medical websites.
During my research, I came across another diabetes clinic in Bed Stuy… The problem being that it had ridiculously low reviews and the quality of service was horrible, as said by the clients. I hope that one day we would not only be able to provide the services that would benefit the community, but build a warm clinic where our patients feel cared for. I believe that people should be taken care of and treated well, as opposed to walking dollar bills for doctors to collect.
This summer, I was part of the Boys Varsity Soccer Team’s trip to Tobago. The trip was a bonding experience at heart, doing so while traveling the island, playing local soccer teams, and engaging in meaningful service. The service we did on the trip was through Kleats for Kids, an organization that I lead. My organization delivers soccer equipment, primarily cleats, to underprivileged children across the world. For this trip, I helped facilitate the gathering of over 100 pairs of cleats, which we carried with us to Tobago. Once there, we led a few clinics for local children, one for kids from the former high school of our coaches and the other for kids from their former soccer academy. After each clinic, we distributed the cleats, along with other gear like jerseys, shinguards, and goalie gloves. Seeing the joy and appreciation on the faces of the young kids was highly fulfilling. Overall, the trip was an incredible experience, made much more special by this great service that we partook in.
This year, I aided Kristin Marchilena with a some of her Lower School music classes. I had hoped to gain experience with both children and music, and I was delighted by the both the creativity and merriness of the class. The children, despite being very rowdy very often, were respective of their teacher and myself. If they broke a rule, they were quick to rectify the problem when commented on. Often though, I felt as though I wasn’t too sure how I was helping. I felt as though I was simply playing and singing with them and not doing any work. Kristin explained to me that without me around, the classes were usually much crazier. She told me that the kids respected me and enjoyed playing with me; this realisation made me extremely happy and helped me realise that service doesn’t have to feel like work. Overall, I truly enjoyed working with Kristen and the kids. I hope to continue working with children in the future.
For my community service, I gave a tour of Union Square during alumni day. Everyday, when I walk to school, I pass through the Union Square train station. Before my tour, I never really took time to learn the history of the square. I wanted to educate the alumni. Me and three other peers worked to create an interesting and detailed tour of the historical site. The tour itself was one hour long, with multiple stops at a few of the many historical sites of Union Square. This community service made me realize how much history there is around us and that most people don’t take the time to really learn about their surroundings.
The trip to South Africa was not a vacation. It was not voluntourism. It was journey and experience in which we listened and observed. We helped local charity projects, but we did not run them, we did not do anything out of our skill, like building a house. The most involved missions were deliving food, which was actually done by the church group, and we simply listened in on their home sermon, and helping at a Chinsta soup kitchen, in which we played with children and cut vegetables. We visited Calabash tours, our tour groups, work in the local school, and the private institution of Ubuntu, an impressive and sexy building, filled with skills classes, clinics, and dance groups. Sounds like we did not do much, huh? This trip was not about how many children we could feed, how many groceries we could deliver, or how many schools we could visit. This trip was not a pat on the back for good work to help those little poor brown children in Africa. This trip was a learning opportunity to hear the stories of those in South Africa affected by the Apartheid, affected by poverty in their townships, and those who wanted to see change in their own communities. We learned about how these people were helping their own communities, and how from what they are doing, we could learn how to serve and help our communities. Their actives would have continued on whether or not we had chopped those vegetables or delivered that rice, they would have been feeding those people, giving their own communities support if we had come or not, and so we were honored to have been able to see these people fight for each other first hand. It was an honor to hear the tragic and painful stories of those young and old in a country struggling to patch up intense racial tension and segregation, just like our own country. It was an honor to see history that happened as recently as 20 years ago, and only as long ago at 100. It is an honor to bring these teaching back to our community here.
This Sunday, I volunteered to walk in the 2015 Aids Walk. The 10 kilometer walk started and ended in central park. Throughout the whole time I was inspired by the enormous crowd’s support in the fight for AIDS. Many of the groups who walked were doing it for deceased loved ones, which somewhat surprised me as I do not know anyone directly affected by AIDS so I did not think it was such a problem in the city. The walk raised $4,126,480 in total and over $139 million in the past thirty years. Everyone there was super motivated, especially the volunteers of the walk. They would always cheer as we walked by and thanked us for participating. This high energy atmosphere motivated me to finish and also really increased my awareness of AIDS and how people are fighting it. Now I know that AIDS does not have a cure yet but it is definitely treatable and possible to live with. With more amazing charities like this AIDS walk, a cure will surely be found.
On the 21st of September there was a climate march from 81st street and central park west to around the U.N. This march was to encourage the United Nations to make laws and regulations to stop climate change. More than 300,000 people attended the march, including several positions and celebrities. I attended with our school and some other school connected to the Religious Society of Friends.
Although it was tedious while it took several hours for our group to actually start marching, this allowed for the excitement to build. As we waited there was a moment of silence for two minutes, and everybody put their hands up, something almost reminiscent of Ferguson. There was a deafening roar, as the silence ended and continued all the way up the line of people until it reached us. We began our walk at about 2 pm, marching forward with our school’s banner. Eventually we opened up a large parachute, with the words “I love our earth” written on it and the image of an earth in a tree. We had a very large, inflated ball that looked like a globe which we put in the center of the parachute and bounced up and down. Several people we did not know came and helped us use the parachute. After several hours and several miles, I went home, though the march continued. It was amazing and inspiring to see so many people together for one cause.
During the first few months of the school year I tutored students in math at my old middle school. My math teacher from 7th and 8th grade asked me if I would like to come back to do this. I enjoyed helping kids with their math skills and seeing them grow of the period of time when I visited. I would go for around 45 minutes after school two times a week. Doing this was special to me because when I went to Salk, I knew many kids in my grade who had trouble with math, but none of our teachers had the time to help them. To go back and made a tangible difference in my school was very special to me. My experiences with the kids at Salk helped me fortify my connections with that school. Although it was hard on many students at Salk to not be able to get the one on one math teaching they needed, it didn’t mean that the teachers there weren’t working hard. As I answered kids’ questions my math teacher was planning the lesson for the next day, or recording specialized videos (about the topics in class) on youtube that kids could watch in their spare time. He was doing all he could to help his students, and there still wasn’t enough time for him to teach them all the things they needed to know. Being able to give my teacher some time to do work while I taught was an experience that matured and enlightened me to be able to understand where my teacher had been coming from. Although the visits didn’t really take much time, and I could be back at school for sports practice, it was still possible to influence the students greatly. I don’t think people realize how big of a difference one can make without spending any money or taking a huge chunk of time out of their days.
Rachel Hodes Class of 2017