Early this year I went to the Rockaways with a group from friends for a beach cleanup. I have always loved the beach and have had a lot of respect for the ocean, my family being surfers and all, so I was happy to be out there potentially saving a turtle’s life. The day was beautiful and was a great example of how service can be so fulfilling because I got a break from Manhattan and was able to enjoy the salt air and sand.
This summer I helped out at my ballet school’s ballet camp for younger students. In the camp, children learned ballet and other forms of dance (such as jazz) and also worked on a group choreography with costumes and music. They also went on several field trips to museums and shows, getting inspired by the art there.
While I have helped out at this camp every summer since 8th grade, this year was special because I was asked especially to work with a young boy who was new to ballet. His family had recently moved out of a homeless shelter, and the director of the program asked me to help him adapt and feel comfortable in this new environment. Over the course of the camp, he became very attached to me, boasting to the other kids that he was in my group for field trips and even once refusing to go on a trip unless I chaperoned.
Meeting and becoming a mentor to this boy was a really touching experience. I was able to be a teacher and role model for him while also being a friend. I felt like I was able to truly make a positive difference in the life of somebody who has lost a lot.
This summer I volunteered at a summer school for a day where I was able to be a stand-in teacher and lead a class. I began by teaching similes and metaphors to the young students where I explained several examples from their textbooks. After the students felt comfortable I had them to do sample questions on their own. Then I spoke to them about current events and had the students write a short piece about a topic of their choice. Lastly, I had the students write a story with the prompt, “I opened the door and,” After a lunch break I returned and proceeded to go over variables in math with students and had them write a brief essay. I enjoyed a day of teaching students in summer school as I gained experience as an educator.
This summer I did a community service program with The Road Less Traveled, called Call of the Wild. The program that I chose worked with an organization called Mission: Wolf, which is based in Colorado near a town called Westcliffe. Mission: Wolf is a wolf sanctuary that helps to rescue and house wolves, wolfdogs, and horses and provide a safe environment for them for the rest of their lives. This is due to if the wolves or wolfdogs were released back into the wild, they would most likely be killed by humans who are afraid of them. During my time there, my group was able to interact with the wolves on a personal level and help the staff and other volunteers there with tasks which that would benefit the wolves directly and indirectly. Some of the work that we did there was to help feed the wolves, which involved throwing bits of meat into the enclosures as well as to help process a horse, which was donated by its owner as food. The sanctuary has such a great reputation and relationship with the surrounding towns, that many restaurants will donate vegetable oil to help power the sanctuary’s vehicles, and local farmers or horse owners will donate their animals or surplus meat/game to help feed the wolves, which require an extensive amount of meat. Another task which we performed which helped the wolves indirectly, was we helped to build a cabin for a volunteer who was going to become a permanent resident and staff member of the sanctuary. This involved filling and carrying buckets of sand and gravel up the hill to where the cabin was being built, mixing and loading buckets of cement, and pouring and shaping the cement to help fill in the floor. After we completed our part of the cabin, we also helped to expand one of the wolf enclosures by working on the fencing. We helped by bringing hundreds of yards of fence up the side of the hill and hogringing the fence together to form a ground mesh and top mesh so the wolves could not dig under or jump over the pre-existing fence. We also helped to replace one of the old wolf fences with a new cow fence to help keep out cows, which are allowed to roam freely in Colorado and can cost the sanctuary thousands of dollars by destroying property. One of the last things we did at the sanctuary was take a class on Pet and Animal CPR, which we then became certified in after performing drills and routines on a practice dog (shown below).
This experience was really eye opening to me to see how many people decided to leave the modern world of technology and the “rat race of life” as they called it to help out with animals. The entire time we were there we slept in tents, made our own food, and showered sparingly, which mirrored the volunteers own lifestyles. This not only opened my eyes to a new lifestyle but as well as to the new people who I met on the trip. Another aspect which changed my life was working and interacting with the wolves themselves and learning about the impact that they have on people and the environment and how one species can play such an important role in the world.
For service day this year I had the opportunity to help out in a food bank in West Harlem. We helped bag fresh vegetables and assisted the customers with getting their food. It was a great opportunity to see all of the different people who use this service and have the chance to interact with them in English and a little Spanish.
This year on Service Day I was able to go and volunteer at the Community Kitchen of West Harlem. We were able to go help stack up and hand out food to people in need as they shopped at the kitchen. We put all the cans and food up to make a supermarket for people to come and pick things up that they needed. They were able to shop with a point system and my classmates and I guided them throughout the kitchen. All the people I helped seemed happy and seemed to be thankful that I was helping them out. I really enjoyed talking to the people getting food and helping them find what they need.
In January of this year, I participated in the Women’s March in Washington DC. It was an amazing experience. I was a part of something that will go down in history, surrounded by millions standing for women’s rights around the world. It was extremely empowering and even a little emotional. I hope to continue going on marches like the Women’s March in the future so I can hopefully bring about some change!
A meaningful service experience I have had this year is peer tutoring. Peer tutoring is a wonderful program at Friends and really allows students to connect with each other and help each other. I have also peer tutored in previous years, and found it to be highly rewarding. It is amazing to see students make great progress in areas which they struggle, and gain confidence in their abilities. Being at peer tutor at Friends has taught me a lot about teaching and communicating with others, and through my service I have learned strategies about how to make tutoring sessions more successful. It is amazing to see students grow, and I am excited to keep working with students in program in the future. I would definitely recommend other students to get involved in the program so that it can grow.
Over the summer, I volunteered with New York Theatre Ballet to create an advertisement video for the company’s nonprofit outreach program. The program is called LIFT, and it finds at-risk children in New York and gives them free classes, tutoring, supplies for school and home, and anything else they might need. Not only was the experience different from what I normally do over the summer with NYTB (I typically assist classes) but it also allowed me to feel involved with the community of the city. Editing the video was fun for me, and it also gave me the chance to help children gain opportunities. Several of my friends from NYTB came from the LIFT program, which made the experience all the more personal and special. The volunteering was incredibly special and a fun, interesting, and morally amazing opportunity.
Every year I help volunteer at the libraries annual Children’s Book Fair. This year I worked at different booths at the fair helping children chalk dye their hair as well as apply temporary tattoos. After the fair ended, I helped take down all of the furniture and clean up underneath the giant tent, since the fair is held outdoors. I also volunteered at the library itself, helping to shelve books and organize the YA section of the library.
This summer I also volunteered for a couple of days at a horse rescue out on long island, that also housed pigs, goats, chickens, and rabbits for the first time. There I was one of the older volunteers so I had to help with harder jobs such as clearing trees out of paddocks, watering the trees, and refilling the dozens of fly traps around the property. The farm houses more than 40 horses along with the other animals, although there are not many volunteers there to help out with the animals.
My friend, Miraya, and I also helped participate in the Modern Quilt Guild’s Quilts for Pulse Drive by designing and making a heart quilt for the survivors of the Orlando shooting. Together over a series of days we designed and sewed together a full quilt top which will be given to someone in Orlando.
This year I definitely felt more involved in the community, both in the city and Long Island. I felt I was given more responsibility at the places where I had volunteered before, as well as given a view into organizations that weren’t as popular and really needed more attention. This summer really helped to expand my view and give me a better sense of understanding at the community.