This year I helped make no-sew fleece blankets for undocumented minors being held in a residential facility while awaiting trial in immigration court. While making these blankets, we talked about the terrible conditions that the undocumented minors experience in the “residential facility.” They get one mesh-like blanket to sleep on, so we made them some fleece blankets to be a little bit more comfortable and warm. Some of the stories Claire told us were very upsetting and made me feel like I should be doing more for the cause. She told us that there was a little 7 year old girl there who was found at the border with no family. I’m happy I had the opportunity to help make these kids more comfortable.
At the end of April, I participated with a rag-tag band of fellow Friends Seminary upper schoolers and faculty in the Peoples’ Climate March in Washington D.C. Despite having to wake up at an hour significantly earlier than I was used to, I was feeling enthusiastic to participate in something meaningful while on the bus ride there. Upon arriving, I was immediately discouraged by the intense heat that awaited us(which was suited the cause of the march) and already tired from an early wake up. However, I was inspired by the unwavering passion of the other protestors and their commitment to spreading our message (even though the President was not even in DC at the time of the march). There was also a band of Pro-life advocates trying to distract us from the march which was irritating, but I was grateful that I had the rare opportunity to meet people with a range of opinions much different than mine. Although the heat was excruciating, it constantly reminded me of our cause and motivated me to continue marching. It was truly something I will never forget.
This year for service day a section of the 10th grade was sent to work at the AFYA Foundation in Yonkers where we sorted through medical materials, counted the amount of each item, and repackaged them to be shipped to places in need such as the Philippines and Haiti. While sorting through the materials I noticed the large amount of supplies that had to be thrown away because they had reached their expiration date and were no longer safe for use. I found the amount of supplies that were tossed to be extremely saddening considering that they had never been used despite the many people who are need of the items. It made me think of how, as wealthy New Yorkers, we are privileged to have access to the materials we need for our health and safety. We have such an excess of these materials and yet the majority of them are not donated until they reach expiration and are no longer useful. I think the AFYA Foundation is a great cause that does the best they can to ship out the materials necessary for people in need to receive adequate medical care.
In the last week of August, the mens varsity soccer team traveled to Warren Salandy and Sherwin O’neil’s home land in Tobago. While in Tobago we explored and toured much of the island, and did played three exhibition matches. We additionally did days of service helping kids from the island, and distributed cleats to them. The three teams we played against were Bishop’s High School, St. Claire’s Coaching School, and the Tobago Select U17 team. We drew with the Bishop’s High School, 3-3, we beat the St. Claire’s Coaching School 2-0, and we beat the Tobago Select U17 team, 2-1. While doing this service, we distributed approximately 200 cleats, and additionally gave other kinds of equipment. We then held two clinics for the kids, one in Bishop’s High School, and one at the St. Claire’s Coaching School. We would distribute the equipment to the kids and the schools after each of these clinics. This was not only a very enjoyable experience, but a very fulfilling one as well.
Over the course of working on this project, I not only learned a good deal about my social issue (poverty in NYC), but I have also become more passionate about it. Working on this has made me more aware of how much of an issue poverty is for our city. Therefore, it has compelled me further to help others combat the issue of poverty. I was especially moved to help combat this issue after working with our non-profit, the Bowery Mission, to serve breakfast to the homeless during our site visit. Although it was very enjoyable to interact with all of their clients, it was sad to see that we were only permitted to serve each client a specific amount of food even if they asked for more.
Working on the YPI project, my communication skills developed in a variety of ways. As this was the most major group project I have ever worked on in my academic career, my skills when it comes to collaboration have gotten better. Interacting with the employees and clients of the Bowery Mission during my site visit has also significantly bettered my communication skills. However, I think presenting has benefited my communication skills most of all. Before the YPI project, I was deathly afraid of public speaking, no matter the size of the audience. Although I wasn’t thrilled about moving on to the finals, since that meant speaking in front of even more people, I began to realize that it wasn’t really that bad during my presentation and in fact, pretty fun.
Bowery Mission Website: https://www.bowery.org
Over the course of the this YPI project I have become more engaged in social injustices like that that is combatted by the Andrew glover youth program. I have not only found myself wanting to do more in an. Effort to create change but have found myself frustrated with my lack of action in the past.
Furthermore of over the course of this project I have found that over the course of thus project I have found all the work we put into research and presentations very rewarding and satisfying to me. That said I think that one of the most challenging but potentially rewarding things for me was working successfully in a group. I think that although we got along it was also difficult for us to work successfully together. The persistence of us working through this created for a wonderful YPI experience.
A while back, I spent a night at my synagogue, B’nai Jeshruin, with students from the synagogue my age as well as students visiting from Israel. I talked with many Israeli students about their experience in New York, and how it differs from their lives in the Mediterranean. I shared my interests in Judaism as well as my contrasting interests with the Arabic language, and they had a lot to say regarding such topics. All of the students were incredibly kind, and the experience was truly heartwarming and humbling. Hopefully I will do something similar in the future.
I have noticed that Americans as a whole feel obligated to “help the world.” This is not a bad thing at all, and I am certainly a member of this philosophy. But so much of that effort is misplaced. People believe that by chucking money at some “Third-world country” they are making things better, which is so untrue. With no concrete product, there is no accountability, so organizations can fiddle away the money and give bonuses to their executives (this is what caused Kony 2012 to fall apart). People not only chuck money at these countries, they chuck used clothes at them as well. This effort is equally as weird, because no one wants smelly used clothes from people overseas (the English tried this with the Native Americans and killed the majority of them off). Luckily, there is a solution. Organizations like Build-On funnel donations in the proper direction (Their website says that 87% of every donation goes to the program, which is quite a high percentage among this type of organization). They also focus on giving hand-up’s not hand-outs. An economy based around tourists sending money is not sustainable. That is why Build On’s model is so successful. The townspeople can say that they built the school along with foreigners, which provides them with what they need (a school) and provides us with what we need (a life changing trip).
Trips like this are important because it allows us to prepare for the changing world. The world that we will grow up in will not only force us to have a global perspective, but it will be more focused on working in a global market with a global perspective. Though it is a gigantic cliché, we are a generation of change-makers. That will be the key part about our generation. The more of the world that we are able to see, the better off we are for this changing world. Every person is able to make a difference, and will make a difference (even if only to one person), so the more informed that person is, the better off the world will be.
This summer I spent two weeks as a volunteer research assistant to Dr. Markel Allaberia at a the Goldman Lab at Columbia University. The Goldman Lab works specifically on Alexander’s Disease, a fatal neuro degenerative disease similar to MS found in young children. With Dr. Allaberia, we extracted the spinal cords to diseased and healthy mice and immuno stained the spinal cord slices. We stained the spinal cords for myelin basic protein (MBP), a protein essential for oligodendrocyte function, Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), what is believed to be indicator of Alexander’s Disease, and the DNA, so we could locate each individual cell. After performing the stains twice, we looked at the slides under the microscope and obtained the image below.
All the blue is DNA, in order to isolate each individual cell, the red is MBP, and the green is (GFAP). The work I did with Dr. Allaberia was very preliminary. Most researchers of Alexander’s Disease study the brain, however Dr. Allaberia wanted to see the results of similar stains that he usual preforms on the brain on the spinal cord, as it is essential part of the nervous system.