The weekend after Earth Day, I traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in a march to raise awareness for climate change and advocate for the environment. I woke up at five in the morning and the bus left at 6am. It took us four hours to get to Washington. By the time we got there, it was over 90 degrees. The march began at noon and we marched for four hours throughout Washington, ending up in front of the White House. There were thousands of participants, all chanting and carrying signs. Although marching for hours in the blazing heat was difficult and uncomfortable, it was incredibly rewarding to be around so many inspiring people advocating for such an imperative cause.
Two Saturdays ago I went with Friends to the People’s Climate March in Washington, DC. I won’t say that waking up at 4:00am was fun, but it was definitely an interesting start to the day– I got to the bus during a thunderstorm. Once we got to D.C., I had a great time. I had totally forgotten how cool the city is, and the sheer amount of people who had shown up for the march was really overwhelming. Walking for hours under the sun in what felt like a million degrees was difficult, but it served as an appropriate reminder of what we were marching against. Ultimately, being a part of the enormous wave of people that flooded down Pennsylvania Avenue and then surrounded the White House was such an incredible feeling. Even though it was hard and exhausting, Friends had a great group of people and it was good to be reminded of how powerful people can be, especially when it comes to an issue as important as climate change. Overall, it was really an enlightening experience for me: I left my comfort zone (literally, by getting out of bed) and joined a movement that was so much bigger than anything I’ve ever done in my life before. I hope that I can continue to participate in organized movements like the People’s Climate March in the future and help to bring about change and improve the world, even if it’s just by a little bit.
In Epidemiology, my group was charged with finding a health problem in the borough of Staten Island and creating a grant proposal for an initiative to help the population with that problem. In our research, my group and I found that a very low percentage of the population of S.I. had been tested for HIV, and that an even lower percentage used condoms when they engaged in sexual activities (which was shocking). Given this revelation, we decided to create a proposal for an HIV testing facility and general sexual health clinic in the most affected neighborhoods of Staten Island. It was kind of appalling to see that the more forgotten boroughs and the outer edges of our city are often neglected when it comes to healthcare, especially new developments in sexual health relating to HIV/AIDS. Although there were a couple of other similar clinics in the area, they were in limited areas and were only open for a few inconvenient hours a day.
In the process of creating a plausible proposal for our clinic, we got to see a little bit of how difficult it is to respond to healthcare inequality in our world. It was a challenge to find an affordable location for our clinic that was also easily accessible for the population of Staten Island, which is a borough with a relatively limited public transportation system. It was also hard to develop a budget that was suitable to the needs of a health clinic but still low enough that we could maintain the clinic for years to come. Thankfully, we were able to find several foundations willing to provide money for HIV clinics like ours.
This project made me and my group members much more aware of the health inequities that go on in the world and even the city we live in. We often forget about healthcare problems that don’t really affect us, but especially in more neglected places those issues can become very serious. I don’t know how I could help, but if I were given the opportunity to improve our healthcare system create a better situation for the multitude of unattended people out there, I would not hesitate to help out and try to balance the state of health in the world.
In Stefan’s politics class this year, we’ve spent a lot of time discussing the election. We noticed that there was no website or news outlet that had a comprehensive comparison of both Clinton and Trump’s stances on the same issues. Stefan broke us into pairs and assigned us each a topic to research. Tessa Defranco and I focused on immigration policy. We created a side by side comparison of what each candidate has posted on their website or on social media regarding immigration. We hoped the website would serve as a both a reference guide for both the candidates’ views on pressing issues, as well as a source of unbiased information.
I am taking Stefan’s Politics class this year. As expected, the class is dominated by talk of the 2016 Presidential election; we frequently read news articles about the candidates, watch the presidential debates, and examine each candidate’s policies. We recently did a side by side comparison of each candidate’s policies for the benefit of the school community. On this blog, students and faculty can see each candidate’s stance on important social, economic, and political issues. My partner and I compared the candidates’ stances on the 2nd Amendment and Criminal Justice Reform. We explored Trump’s and Hillary’s campaign websites to gather the bulk of our information and also reviewed their social media feeds. We were careful not use any sources that were not clearly sanctioned by their campaigns as to avoid misrepresenting either candidate. This project gave me the opportunity to look more closely at our two candidates for president and determine, as objectively as possible, where each stands on these important issues. With many important issues compiled together on the Politics blog, others in our community (regardless of their political involvement or leanings) can better inform themselves on the upcoming presidential election.
Friends has, for a long time, had a strong partnership with God’s Love We Deliver. The annual holiday bag decorating for those who cannot cook for themselves or supply their own food for their families has always been a highlight of my service learning at Friends. It allows us to have such an immediate positive and loving effect on our NYC community.
This year, along with a few peers, I volunteered at the God’s Love We Deliver Youth Internship Program. We met many Sundays to learn about the business side of the philanthropic organisation as well as operations and client services. We were also able to help with hands on work such as chopping hundreds of vegetables for the daily soups and other meals whilst enjoying the company of the volunteers who come from all over the city to give back.
I have thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to experience a committed and loving organisation in depth. God’s Love really has an incredible amount of passion everyday when it comes to helping those in need. I would like to thank them for everything they have taught me and for the wonderful experience I have had there this year.
During last summer I interned with the GO Project in their GO Getters Program. For five weeks student volunteers worked with experienced teachers and teaching assistants in K-8 classrooms. These students were incredibly bright but had fallen behind during the school year because of a lack of resources, family issue etc. Our job was to provide an experience that would supplement what they were learning in school and also to provide a unique experience using the many resources available at Grace Church (and Avenues). As a morning volunteer, my job was to help students in an academic class. I worked with a science teacher on an environmental science course, discussing and doing activities on issues such as renewable energy, fracking, and composting. We worked with students individually when they required specialized help but also made sure in include group activities into the curriculum. This emphasis on group activity fostered a great sense of community among the students and helped volunteers learn their interests, strengths, and weaknesses in the classroom. The year culminated in a lab report on a composting project. The students created poster boards discussing their projects and presented to students in all middle school classes on the final presentation day.
Volunteers attended daily professional development sessions to discuss issues of social justice related to educational equity. We touched on issues such as the intersection between race, economic status, and educational development, public funding for struggling students, and the use of standardized testing as a measure of intelligence. The student volunteers hailed from many different backgrounds; all were New Yorkers, but every student had a unique story. These PD sessions gave me the opportunity to talk with students who had stories that are rare to encounter at Friends. Some of their schools emphasized diversity similarly to Friends; others did not. Getting some insight into how these less diverse student bodies conducted themselves (as well as some more diverse student bodies) made me realize the importance of diversity at any school and on any campus. Diversity of background (race, socio-economic class etc.) led to the most important type of diversity in any educational setting: diversity of ideas. Having people from so many different backgrounds led to some very unique debates that are impossible to have without a diverse student body. Agree with every students’ opinion or not, exposure to different types of people is important in developing an objective and inclusive view of issues that affect all of us. I hope that every student explores opportunities to exit their bubbles of privilege the same way that I did this summer, and I hope that students at Friends and Friends alumni push for greater diversity wherever they are.
Over the summer, I did a month long internship at The Committee to Protect Journalists. Freedom of the press and freedom of speech are ideals surprisingly unique to certain countries. All over the world, journalists and artists are prevented from speaking or writing freely, and they are often thrown in jail if they do so. This is typically the case in countries with oppressive governments where it is illegal to criticize governments or rulers. One of the best known examples of this limited freedom is in the case of the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who was imprisoned for his bold art work. The Chinese government finally gave Ai Weiwei his passport back this July. Another well known case is that of Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post journalist who has been held captive by the Iranian government for 447 days.
The Committee to Protect Journalists works to free imprisoned journalists, promote freedom of the press, and advocate human rights by working with the governments that forbid such freedoms. The issue of freedom of the press is an increasingly pressing one, as more journalists are being imprisoned than ever and as “ authorities seek to silence and retaliate against critical voices covering sensitive topics such as corruption or human rights abuses”. At CPJ, I not only had the opportunity to learn about an issue that is incredibly important to me, but I also got to meet a group of passionate people and watch them work to conquer a problem that they care about.
This summer I worked at two different art camps, one at an elementary school in Phoenix, Arizona, and the other at a studio in Dumbo. Each summer, these places host a day camp for kids to make art. At the Awakening Seed School in Phoenix, I worked as a teacher’s assistant, organizing activities and helping a class of 5-year-olds with their art projects. At the AWE studio in Dumbo, I helped kids of all ages with their art projects and the teacher in preparing the studio for each day of classes.
These two service experiences were really memorable and fun, as I got to participate in a side of school and art that I’ve never taken part in before. It was interesting to see what it’s like to handle a large group of children armed with messy art supplies (there’s no escape from the glitter). I learned a lot about dealing with kids and helping them out with their problems, be they art-related or not. It was also great to hang out with kids much younger than me and see their more innocent views on the world.
This year I had a wonderful experience participating in the Dancers Responding to AIDS (DRA) performance for service. For several months, Grace Lopez, Fatoumata Mbaye and I worked with Coraya Danu-Asmara to choreograph a dance that we then performed. It was really incredible to see the different dances people had created to support AIDS, and even though I was insecure about my own, I felt that the night was very successful. In addition to seeing all the amazing choreographies in the performance, it was awesome to see how many people showed up to watch and to support the cause. I’m glad to have participated in such an interesting and meaningful event.