Last week I cooked dinner for the friends shelter. With the help of my mom I went to the store and got all of the ingredients for lasagna, salad (both for dinner) muffins (for breakfast) and some cookies for desert. After this we went home and took a couple hours to prepare the meal. We packed up the food in containers and put in some utensils and brought it to the shelter. When we got there the volunteers were finishing setting up and their faces lit up when they saw all the food. They were so thankful and it felt so great to make a difference in someone’s life; even if it were supplying them with one dinner on one night. The next day I got an email from the head of the friends shelter saying thanks and that the guests loved the food. She said that at night they “started to sing because of how happy they were about the food” and “in the morning they were still humming and singing.” I can’t really describe with words how this made me feel to know that I helped people feel this way, but I plan on doing this again and helping more people find this happiness however I can.
On February 8th, I went with a group of students from my statistics class to the 2016 HOPE count. HOPE (Homeless Outreach Population Estimate) is an annual survey of the critically homeless population in New York City. It takes place from about 12 am – 3 am. The survey takes place in the middle of the night in the middle of winter in order to estimate the amount of people in NYC that are inc chronically homeless. During the count, thousands of volunteers are sent to all different parts of New York City. In their specific areas, they are instructed to go up to any person they see and fill out a survey with questions such as “Do you have a place to sleep tonight?”, ultimately making the decision if they are homeless or not. The night we went was code blue, meaning it was an extremely cold night. On a night where it is code blue, volunteers are instructed to call 911 if they believe a homeless person does not have the proper clothing or protection from the cold. Before we began, we were given an orientation on the Do’s and Don’ts of the count. We were instructed not to approach anyone on private property. We were also told we cold not force anyone to get help from 911. We also could not begin counting until it was 12 am. My group was four people. We were assigned an area in Greenwich Village. Our streets were extremely empty. We talked to about six people, only one who identified as homeless. The man was sixty years old and extremely frustrated with the system. He told us that he was taken to a homeless shelter. There, he was beat up and had his I.D. stolen. Although he wanted help, he had to meet someone for some money. He decided it was best to try and get the money first and then to try to find us later. Unfortunately, we did not see him again that night. The HOPE survey was a very interesting experience. I really liked hearing the man’s experience with being homeless. It definitely made me think New York City still has a lot of work when it comes to helping the homeless population.
During the summer, I was able to volunteer at Javits Center to welcome His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to New York City. Over a period of 4 days, two of those for preparations in the center, I met dozens of other Tibetan students (many of whom were older than me) and had the opportunity to connect with alot of them. The first two days of preparations were more focused on the labelling of seat numbers and distribution of the prayer books for the 15,000 people to come. With only around 200 volunteers, it did take a while to get the job done; however, once we finished the place was truly a sight to see. On the first day of the teachings (“Tenshug”), I was stationed inside the area where HHTDL was, and I put wristbands on the people leaving the building. My friend and I wristbanded a good 7,000 people during the lunch break. However, the next day I was stationed outside of the seated area, and was placed at the media table and the donation center. I collected and wrote receipts for donations made by Tibetan members of the community. At the media table, a volunteer and I handed out ID badges for the media groups that stopped by. By the end of the last day, a group of ten volunteers (including myself) sorted out thousands of ear and head pieces (used by people who needed translations for the teachings), which took around 2 hours. Throughout the four days, not only was I blessed to be able to volunteer and contribute to the Tibetan community that raised me from an early age, but also honored to meet hundreds of other unique, wonderful, and compassionate Tibetans I would have never gotten the chance to meet.
At the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute this summer, I helped teach 11 kids the basics of Lee Strasberg’s method acting and general theatre skills. I was with the children all day and was a Teacher’s Assistant to the teachers who gave up their summer to teach at the Institute, despite being free of the usual NYU and Conservatory program students that they teach year-round.
This year is the last year possible for me to go to Strasberg, where I’ve been going for 11 years now. I’ve watched many a student rehearse for college auditions, read scenes better than I’d ever seen, and generally been inspired by so many of those people who were older than me and are now off doing great things for the American theatre. It was not only adorable, but incredibly nostalgic and also quite amazing to see these kids exactly where I started off at LSTFI: I was only 7 years old and taking the exact same classes they were taking in the same two week extension. Although many people don’t agree with Lee Strasberg’s methods and I wouldn’t dare to argue that they are far superior to any others, the one thing I know for sure is that the people teaching at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute have the power to inspire and keep that inspiration flowing inside of a person. Before I go off to college myself, I’m so grateful that I got the opportunity to be one of those people this year.
Over the summer, I volunteered at Lenox Hill Hospital. Although I had been doing this throughout the year, during the summer I was able to go multiple times a week and feel more apart of the community. I worked out of the volunteer office. I answered the phone and did errands. Some of the errands included delivering flowers, selling raffle tickets, assisting patients, transporting blood, and helping specific units in the hospital. I really enjoyed this experience because it allowed me to see the inner workings of a hospital. There are so many job opportunities and different positions in a hospital. Many faculty members refer to it as being its own city. I will continue working at Lenox Hill Hospital throughout this school year!
Going into this year’s service day I was very hesitant; I wasn’t sure how it would working at a meat packing factory, and I didn’t know what we would be doing in the first place. When we got there we went into a room and watched a video on hunger, and the facts were appalling. The massive amounts of children that are starving around the world was so large I almost didn’t believe it. Then, after the video and after they had debriefed us on what we were going to be doing, I was unsure how, and if, we would actually be helping anyone by packing meat into boxes. However, after we had worked hard for numerous hours packing meat into boxes, and weighing and organizing the boxes, they told us how much we really had helped. Apparently we had packed thousands of pounds of meat, which would feed hundreds of thousands of people around the country. When we got back to school we watched a documentary on hunger, in which a statistic was stated that, once again, I believed was too high to be true: 1 in 3 people in the USA suffer from hunger. All in all, I have a completely new outlook on the issue of hunger in the world, and more specifically in America. I didn’t realize the extent to which hunger plagued the country, and with this new knowledge and new experience, I would love to do something like this again!
This fall my teacher, Phyllis Trout, asked me to help her out with running and organizing her stand at her community’s street fair. In the spirit of the class, sculpture, she asked me to help run the pumpkin carving stand, in which children came up with their own pumpkins and I helped them sculpt what they want, or sculpted it for them. The experience was not only fun, but also it was rewarding in that I got to connect with the community and help make children’s halloween that much better. I had never worked at a stand or at a fair before and I have to say, I loved it and I’d love to do it again.
Over winter break (yes, I know that seems like years ago!), I was lucky enough to take the train to Northampton to see some friends. When I arrived, they asked me if I wanted to wake up the next day at 7 o’clock in the morning to go paint on trees in Boston. They assured me it would be community service.
The next morning, after driving for an hour or so, we entered into this huge factory building (hopefully now it’s clear that we’re not going to go do graffiti in a forest—we’re inside). We then walked into this enormous space (imagine the meetinghouse times 5) that had on one side a haunted house and a merry-go-round, and on the other side, there was a “forest” of wooden trees (picture below). So we took off our shoes, mixed some paint, and got to work! We painted for 3 hours, took a lunch break, came back and painted a couple more trees. While it may not seem like it, painting trees was a lot of work, but we were cranking them out at a rate of about 3 trees per hour. Altogether, I would have guessed that everybody at the event decorated about 100 trees in total.
Now you may be wondering how we were doing community service by painting on trees. Well, after the paint had dried, we carried the trees into an even bigger space, which was filled with tables and chairs for a thousand homeless children to eat a good meal. The painted trees and other decorations made the space light up and looked beautiful.
I had always wanted to do community service over winter break. Everyone was full of holiday spirit. So next year, if you happen to be in Massachusetts and in a giving mood, the organization is called Christmas in the City. Check out their website here: http://christmasinthecity.org/.
With the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, I helped out at a childrens’ camp which taught them the basics of Lee Strasberg’s method acting and also other basic skills vital to theatre. I helped the kids get to their classes and acted as a Teacher’s Assistant to the teachers who gave up their summer to teach at the Institute, despite being free of the usual NYU and Conservatory program students that flood the halls of LSTFI year-round. Lee Strasberg believed that there should be no “advanced” or “beginner” acting classes — instead, he thought that the old and the new should be in the same class together. The new students can look up to and learn from the older students while the older students can be reminded of the basic skills that they learned when they were a beginner. During the week I volunteered, I definitely was reminded of many things I had once learned when I was the age of the students (8-11), for my attendance in that very same program I helped out in was vital to the beginning of my acting “career.”
Seeing the children learn the beginnings of method theatre acting, singing, dancing, and acting for film at such a young age not only made me smile but also reminded me of who I once was and who I continue to be. Although I did volunteer this summer, I spent most of my summer in a 6-week theatre conservatory program at Carnegie Mellon University. While my time there was well worth it, very educational, and so fun, it was hard to see past the incredible competition that there is for aspiring actors nowadays. In many colleges, the odds of getting in for a musical theatre major are less than that of getting into a Broadway show. It is easy to lose hope when surrounded by kids just as talented or more talented than you are. However, seeing the children at LSTFI made me remember how hopeful and motivated I was when I was their age. I used to dance and sing for my parents every night because I wanted to be the main character in Broadway’s Wicked, and nothing could stop me from practicing constantly — not even the neighbors’ complaints. Seeing and helping the kids learn from great teachers made me remember that motivation, and not lose sight of a future that I may be able to have just because there are others who are also good at what I do. My experience was educational not only for the kids but also for myself, and although I am getting to the age where I will have to leave the Young Actors at Strasberg program, my experiences in the camp and helping out there will always be in my heart, and it will motivate me when I move on from high school.
Over the summer, I volunteered with Lenox Hill Hospital on the Upper East Side. I was part of a high school summer program. I worked on the Intensive Care Unit visiting with patients throughout the floor. I was able to interact with patients and their families and help when they needed a hand or an errand. Not only was I able to help with patients, but I also got to help out with the organization of the unit. In the mornings, I would restock the floors with gloves and gowns and help the clerk on the unit. Through this experience, I was exposed to how a hospital worked and the endless professions within it. I enjoyed this experience because of the relationships I was able to build with not only the patients, but with the nurses and the other people that make up a hospital.