I participated in the climate march a few months ago in Washington D.C. Many of us had made posters and brought them with us on the busride down to Washington D.C. There, we joined thousands of other people to walk around the white house and chant or raise our signs to say that there needs to be change in climate policy because global warming is a legitimate concern that seems to be trivialized right now.
I was so lucky to have the opportunity to travel to Tobago with the Men’s Varsity Soccer team in late August. Service was a large component to our trip. Our service included helping to organize soccer training sessions for local children. After the session we presented soccer equipment to donate to the kids who participated in the training session, as part of a program called “Kleats for Kids.” Playing with and joking around with the kids during the training session before we helped them try cleats on made the donations feel even more special. Also, the fact that we were able to help Warren in his effort to give back to the school and soccer program that he attended made the experience feel more personal.
For our most recent project, my graphic design class teamed up with the printmaking class to create prints and posters. Each group of about three students was instructed to choose a social issue, and make two prints. My group, which consisted of Chi Osse, Amanda Liebman, and myself decided to choose Free Tibet and self-immolation as our issue. We first made the designs on Adobe Illustrator. While the designs were printed, we transferred them into Blender, a 3D designing program, and printed 3D plates out of the printers in Studio 5. We then brought the plates to the other art room and made manual prints with different colors, papers, and other materials. We believe self-immolation and the Tibetan independence movements are very important issues, and realized this project was a great way to address and raise awareness for the issues. Our designs and plates are currently in a case on the main stairs between the third and fourth floors, and the prints are all around the school. We hope you will check out the art we made for this project.
I spent all of August in Hawaii and during that time I was teaching young kids how to play basketball. I taught them the basics of the game, I also trained them mentally and physically. I ran the basketball camp in my gated community, there was a lot of responsibility on my back this summer. I was left with 3 or 4 kids for 2 hours 3 times a week for a month. It was incredibly challenging to keep 7-10 year olds focused and engaged in my teaching. I tried new ways to make the kids not get bored every day, some methods worked some did not. The method that worked the best was to make the kids laugh and to not do fundamental drills for long. My patience was also being constantly tested by the kids, at the beginning my patience was bad but by the end it was amazing.
I got attached to some of the kids and I felt sad when they left. I honestly did have favorite kids and I treated them better than other kids. I will definitely try and not do this next summer because the kids who were not the favorites got upset occasionally. A lot of parents did not care about the basketball, they cared more about getting their kids off their hands for two hours. This annoyed me because my services are to teach basketball and train kids, not babysitting. Some of the kids had never touched a basketball before, which made it hard for me to do group drills because everyone was at such different skill levels. But, overall I had a wonderful time and it was an amazing experience.
For service day, the 10th grade went to staten island. I enjoyed the ferry ride there and the bonding that I did with my grade. The time spent on the bus ride was a nice way to get to know my classmates that I might not otherwise spend time with. When we arrived, however, we were given a powerpoint presentation, which I was hoping would inform me about Staten island, but instead it gave us little information on staten island, the park, and the what/who we would be helping. I found it hard to give back to a community that I did not know much about or understand how my work was helping them. I wish I could have gotten more out of this experience.
This year I was part of the outreach initiative called Head Start. The Head Start Program is an organization in New York City that offers families in poverty free educational programs for children three to five years old. I volunteered to play with kids at one of the Head Start centers. Within a few short hours of playing with dinosaurs and rockets I felt like I was able to connect with the kids and make sure they all had fun. It occurred to me that many of these kids were at Head Start in the late afternoon well after three o’clock, when most kids would be picked up by their parents. For whatever reason, be it work or something else, the children’s parents were unable to pick them up so they waited at Head Start. It was fulfilling to make these children smile and laugh but it was even more fulfilling to know that, in my small way, I was helping a potentially struggling, time-pressed parent get through a busy day by making sure their child was having fun until the parent had time to pick the child up.
In the month of August, I helped out with a kids day camp in Hawaii. The organization is called Kukio, it is a gated community, but it offers many day camps for kids. My friend and I were in charge of the basketball section, so twice a week we had a two hour session with about 12 kids ranging from 6-12 years old. During this time we helped the kids work on their mechanics and made sure they had the proper basketball fundamentals. As well as this, we taught them about good sportsmanship. We also had to take care of the kids, which was incredibly hard. The kids we taught were not very well behaved, but it helped me develop my patience. Through experiencing teaching a group of kids for the first time, it made me understand how hard it is to be a good teacher. This gave me a lot of sympathy for teachers who have to deal with a large group of young kids who find it hard to listen. I also developed a good connection to some of the kids that I taught, they listened to my teaching, and thoroughly enjoyed the camp. When the children listened and had fun, it created a great environment. But when they were misbehaving and not paying any attention to me, it created a pretty bad environment. Overall, I had a great time teaching these kids, and I learned a lot from them. Hopefully next time I go out and teach basketball I will be better and all the kids will listen to me.
This summer, I helped out with an organization called NYCares. I worked with a group of about 10 students and helped out various New Yorkers across Manhattan. Every week, we would do a different type of community service. On the first week, we delivered food to the elderly as a part of a program called Meals on Wheels. This was designed to provide food for people who were physically unable to get out of their house or didn’t have the money to buy food for themselves. The following week, we went to a hospital and kept the children busy by doing arts and crafts with them while their parents were with the doctor. Then, we had another arts and crafts day at a center for elderly. On the last week, we went to a homeless shelter and organized clothes that were donated. We categorized them into business clothing for job interviews and casual clothing. This was an amazing expereince because I got to meet many new people in NYC and I learned a lot from the New Yorkers, especially the elderly because they had many amazing stories to tell.
For the YPI project my group focused on homelessness in relation to substance abuse and mental illness in New York City. We found that the number of homeless people in the city has been rising over the years with more than 53,000 people in homeless shelters. This number does not account for the vast number of people sleeping in the streets and on subways. Of the more than 53,000 homeless people, almost 40 percent suffer from substance abuse and 64 percent suffer from mental illness. To gain more incite on the social issue my group worked researched and visited the Bowery Residents Committee (BRC), a non-profit organization. BRC helps homeless people throughout the city. They have shelters located all over the New York City that give meals, places to sleep, and different programs for their clients depending on the client’s needs. We quickly learned that BRC emphasizes helping their clients make goals and that each client is unique. Most of all, BRC helps clients care about themselves and regain hope.
The YPI project was very informative and gave me a new perspective on homelessness. It was very rewarding to put my efforts into a real issue in the city because I was given the chance to make a real difference in someone’s life. Even though my group did not win the five thousand dollar donation to BRC it was still meaningful to raise awareness for BRC and an issue important to me. Also, visiting a BRC shelter and interviewing Muzzy, the Executive Director, gave me a new outlook on the homeless and on substance abuse. Some experiences during my site visit were seeing clients do art, and introducing myself and meeting a couple clients. It was personal experiences like these and seeing homeless people in a setting besides the street that made me not think of the homeless people as a whole. The YPI project gave me a new outlook on the homeless where they are each very unique with his or her own life story.
The social issue my group researched was homelessness, addiction, and mental illness in New York City. We found that 30-40% of the street homeless population suffered from a mental illness and 64% of homeless people in New York City suffer from substance abuse. These numbers surprised us since those percentages are close to or over 50%. We see homeless people every day suffering on the streets for numerous reasons, and my group thought it would be most effective if we tried to help. After researching, we found a non-profit organization called The Bowery Residence Committee, or BRC.
BRC helps homeless people suffering with addiction and/or mental illness with numerous shelters around the city. ⅔ of BRC clients have mental illnesses or addictions. BRC’s goal is to get clients to gain self-concern and eventually be able to support themselves and have a number of programs, groups, and 1146 staff members to help them. The Bowery Residence Committee’s motto is to “give the homeless a hand up, not a hand out”. This means that the staff workers offer their services in the hope that the clients will become sober, learn to deal with their mental illness, and be able to support themselves. BRC’s staff provides support and guidance, but will not tell the clients what to do in order to achieve their goals. BRC is currently housing 1,442 people and has helped over 3,000 people successfully complete their programs.
Throughout the process of making our presentations, visiting BRC, and presenting, my attitude towards homeless people suffering from addiction and mental illness in New York City has changed over the course of the project. At first, I just thought of BRC as part of a history project that I was obligated to do. However, following our site visit, my idea of BRC was reshaped drastically. After seeing all of the clients and how happy they were in BRC’s facilities, it really showed how much BRC helped them. We also saw some classes going on including an art class which helped the clients express their feelings through art. One man, named Audrey, who was struggling with a mental illness, talked to us about his picture expressing his struggles with homelessness. It suddenly became so real to me as Audrey rambled on about being homeless. Homelessness is actually this lifestyle that people live for years. They suffer during the cold winters in New York City and constantly beg for money. In order to survive the pain, they usually abuse alcohol and drugs. It is a constant cycle that BRC helps break, so those people can finally have a chance at living a normal life.