Over the course of the YPI, I think my skills at working with others improved greatly. I think that my group divided the work of the project very well among us, with every member playing a part, but none of us dominating the rest. I think that our caring about the issue brought us together and allowed me to have enough confidence in others that we could put forth a product that was really the result of the hard work of all of us. Service really helped to bring us together this year and I am grateful for that.
I thought that the hardest part of this project was making sure we kept working on it, as we were doing numerous other things in History class and other classes. Stretching the project over a long time meant that every time we went back to improve on it, we had to remind ourselves of everything we had done before. For me, the site visit was the most rewarding part of the project. I really enjoyed getting to see the boats and environmental projects that the teens at Rocking the Boat were working on and how dedicated they were to the issue, and though I am disappointed not to have won the grant for our organization, I think that I learned some very valuable things while working towards that goal.
With YPI, I was paired with partners Alexandra Skora and Amanda Liebmann, as we each shared a common interest in helping the disabled. We ultimately decided to focus on those affected by autism, considering that Amanda was close to a family with a child with autism, and also considering that my own younger brother has autism, himself. We decided on the organization YAI, helping the development of people with autism. While we didn’t make it through to the final round, I felt that the whole experience was rather new, eye-opening, and enjoyable. I am rather grateful for the opportunity as a whole.
While I do already know much about autism, there was still much information that I was unaware of prior to the project. The project helped me to research and discover this new information, changing my attitude towards the social issue. For instance, the specific statistic that one in sixty-eight children are diagnosed with autism. Last I had checked, the number wasn’t as severe, and the circumstances of the growing “epidemic” that is autism are slowly becoming more dire to me.
Communication skills were a huge facet of the project. For example, something as simple as working with my partners – whom I weren’t extremely familiar with beforehand – both challenged and improved my communication skills. Also, I found myself interviewing someone under legitimate circumstances for the first time in my life at the site visit, building on my communication skills. I found both of these experiences to be especially challenging. Additionally, we ran into some technical difficulties only a few days before our in-class presentations, causing us to lose most of our digital presentation. This was a big challenge which we were luckily able to overcome. In the end, seeing our presentation finished in its complete state was extremely rewarding.
Throughout the course of the YPI project, I have become more aware and engaged towards this social issue. This project has allowed me to stop ignoring our society’s issues and instead try to resolve them. I now hope to make an impact in stopping this issue. Over the course of the project, I have improved my public speaking skills, my efficiency, and commitment to practicing. These are all key aspects that will greatly help me on other projects later on. In addition, I have strengthened my ability to work as a group. At first, the public speaking aspect was the most challenging. But over the course of the project, it has become the most rewarding since I can benefit from my experience.
During the last few months myself and my group have been working with the Covenant house. We have been trying to create funding for youth homelessness since we believe it is such a big issue in New York City. We went on a site visit to meet the staff and the youth that lived there. We were impressed with the amount of time and energy that was put into this issue. I personally found it challanging to raise money for our charity. The amount of time you have to put in to your foundation is a lot and can be sometimes stressful. Also the competition for grants is at a very high standard. Throughout the day I witnessed 10 different groups present for their charity. Each group had a good reason and a good cause to donate to their charity, but by being able to raise money for our charity and see the impact it creates on the community makes it worth it all in the end. I didn’t find a really big connection from World History 1 to this YPI project. It did not seem very relevant to what we were learning. Although I can sort of make a connection with early societies that had charity as well to support their small communites they were creating thousands of years ago.
The past few days, I helped Geny Kimbrell make packets to hand out to rising juniors for their college trip this summer. The work was pretty tedious since I had to photo copy sheets for 10 different schools and make twenty copies of each packet. I also had to correct the mistakes I made or I had to cross out unhelpful information. While the service itself was not very enlightening, I learned to really appreciate what Geny does for us.
Having gone through the process this year, I know that Justin and Audrey do a lot for the seniors and juniors but they are in the foreground. It is easy to see the work they put in to help us, though I am sure most of their work is behind the scenes. Geny does not have as much physical presence but she really does a lot for the seniors and I really appreciate all the work she does just to make our lives a little easier.
The recent art auction at the David Zwirner Gallery, designed to raise money for the Friends Seminary Capital Campaign, relied on student volunteers to conduct almost every aspect of the proceedings. My own role, as an avid art historian, was to research one particular lot, locating the works within the overall oeuvre of each artist and supplying as much detail as possible to be included in the description of the works when they were sold. The lot that I was assigned included eight works by parents of current students and alumni at our school. Over the course of several weeks, I spent hours researching the artists in various art catalogs and online databases, putting together an overview of their work and how each of the individual works offered for sale reflected their central themes and techniques. In addition, I attended a detailed training session at the David Zwirner Gallery, where I was guided in how to speak about the works in the gallery context, and how to evaluate prospective buyers and their concerns.
My volunteer work allowed me to bring together two of the great passions in my life. I believe strongly, especially now that I am about to graduate, in the future of our school and the need to offer its unique education to as many students as possible. At the same time, I love encountering contemporary art with which I am unfamiliar, and the project gave me a chance to explore the work of talented artists within the Friends community. The project was a particularly successful fundraiser, and I am proud of my participation.
Over the past few weeks I have helped with Empty Bowls at our school. I was particularly motivated by both the session on child hunger that I attended during Day of Concern as well as by the class Poverty in the US that I am currently taking. It is shocking how much hunger can affect a student’s life. Hunger causes students to lose focus, be less productive, and in some cases, be in a bad mood and cause disruptions. This leads the students and their classmates to learn a lot less while in school, which in turn, can lead to a life of struggle. I decided that I wanted to be a part of the solution and thus I started helping out with Empty Bowls. Learning to make pottery was extremely fun and the student leader, Michael Lowe, was very helpful. Learning about poverty and helping out with Empty Bowls has definitely opened my eyes to the struggles that people in the United States face everyday.
This September I participated in the People’s Climate March. With othner students and factuality, we made signs and posters displaying the type of change we wanted to see . Then we all marched together.
This process was an unbelievable education in the art of protesting. It give me insights on how to effectively and peacefully work towards justice. It was such an incredible experience to be part of a community so dedicated to bringing about the world that ought to be. .
This past fall I volunteered at the Striver’s Row Block Tours in Harlem. I helped set up and run the ticket booth, I gave tours of a few houses (including a history of the building and a couple notes on the architecture style), and I helped guide people from house to house.
This is the second year that I have been volunteering at the Striver’s Row Block Tours. These tours give people an insight into the little historic gems hidden in Harlem. People from all over the city, as well as New Jersey and Connecticut, come to the all-day event.
For me, the Block Tours are especially meaningful because I live in one of the Striver’s Row buildings. Each house has a unique interior, and sharing the interior of my own home as well as my neighbors’ was an honor.
In in the spring of my junior year, I volunteered at the Citizens Committee for Children, an advocacy group that brings together diverse committees of young people to advocate for change within their communities. I got to see firsthand the type of issues that many kids my own age have to face on a daily basis: drug use within that communities, lack of educational opportunities, crime that affects them personally every day, and the whole array of problems that accompany poverty in a modern urban environment. This past semester, we focused on juvenile justice, discussing ways in which the system ought to be reformed in order to serve all juvenile offenders equally. In particular, we talked about how often in the city juvenile offenders are treated as adults, and as a result, are deprived of the services and understanding that they need. The next stage was to meet with City Council members, explaining the reforms that we believe are necessary and encouraging them to take up our agenda. The CCC has taught me the power that all of us have to be advocates for change in our community.