This past year, I was invited to the TEAK Fellowship on several occasions to help out with their HS Admissions. Having gone through the same process myself, as both a high school senior and a TEAK Fellow, I knew the importance of helping rising sixth graders gain entrance into the Fellowship and preparing rising eighth graders for the rigors of high school. For the former, I was required to oversee group assignments and evaluate each student on individual skill sets from leadership, to collaboration, to time management before giving them each a grade on several categories which would help aid the deen, advisors, and president make their final decisions on student applications. Helping rising eighth graders prepare for the high school admissions process by conducting practice interviews also gave my overheads valuable insight on the students’ strengths and weaknesses. I was glad to contribute my time to a cause that helped me in turn and I look forward to doing it again.
From the months of May to November of 2016, I visited a woman in her early 80s with severe arthritis (amongst other, more severe, health issues that prohibited her from basic movement and taking care of herself and her dog, Boingo) in order to service her many household needs. I had known this woman for some time, and though watching her grow old and incapable has been rather heartbreaking, I was more than ready to offer my services as an able young person. During these biweekly visits, I would do a variety of chores for Ms. Dalrymple (such as taking Boingo on long walks through the park, watering the numerous ferns and plants in her household, cleaning up the excrement Boingo had left scattered throughout the previous days, doing the dishes and preparing small meals, mopping and wiping the dust-bunnies and dirt lining her house, etc.) but perhaps the most taxing (while still somehow enjoyable) part of this experience was planting a fully functional vegetable garden in her backyard. This experience was one that I undertook foolishly, as I did not realize the time and tedium that goes into planting a garden of such a vibrant nature (as in one with plants). The cost of seeds, soil and fertilization alone was a blow to the confidence I had built up in preparation of this job. But, after a couple of days lining the outside walls of her backyard with soil, potting plants into flowerpots (and mostly into the soil itself), and researching the various germination methods of seeds, I began to find the project rather rewarding in what I learned from it. This project taught me the nature of working on a project tirelessly for a long stretch of time, only to be rewarded (with a striking garden) at the very end (instead of receiving small payoffs or incentives along the way to keep me interested/working). This project also taught me about self-sustainability and being able to live off of the land, a basic human skill that eluded me before I had this experience.
I had a number of interesting service experiences this year, but the most relaxing one was a fixture of many of my Fridays: packing up the meetinghouse for the weekend with Bob Rosen and Russell Dukes. It’s a simple matter of getting the piles of stuff that sit in the corners of the meetinghouse – guitars, amps, drums, bass, trolleys full of cables, scores, and saxophone reeds – out of the room and into the gallery and music offices so that the space can become an uncluttered house of worship on Sundays when the Quaker congregation arrives. Everything is in varying states of disarray as we move the items down the center aisle and into the meetinghouse lobby, and some of the carts could use some axle grease, but the work always seems to go quickly as I chat with Russell or listen to exciting new music over the sound system with Bob. Often, other students will join us and speed up the work, but sometimes it’s just the three of us – I don’t mind either way. It’s good, simple work, and a nice way to end the week.
Around the World Day has been one of my favorite events throughout my years in high school. I have always enjoyed seeing my classmates in a new light as they show off their personal cultures. Being of a diverse origin (or being more noticeably different than the majority) can be very alienating, even in a community like Friends. However, events like Around the World Day remind me that there is so much more diversity that is hidden below the surface every other day of the year. It makes me wonder why, in a community like our own, everyday does not feel like Around the World Day.
I helped organize this event as co-leader of RAAD (Raising Awareness Advocating Diversity), but also as someone who wants our community to feel welcome to share their cultures willingly, without judgement, and on their own terms. I hope that this event helped members of our community to learn more about cultures they had never previously experienced, but to also find a closer connection to cultures outside of their own through their friends, peers, students, etc. I have learned at Friends and through numerous diversity conferences that proximity drives empathy with drives us closer to achieving social justice. For the past two years as I have helped my grandmother as she wakes up before 5am just to fry aloo pies for my table, I have learned more about my own culture. During those times, I have always hoped that I could somehow help the Friends community to connect with the tangible quality of “the other” that our country so often rejects by seeing a representation of a multitude of different cultures from people they know and love!
– Jada Jameson
This past weekend I had the pleasure of helping set up the lower school halloween party. It was so gratifying to blow up balloon after balloon, knowing that little children would be enjoying them later. Carrying boxes of candy up and down stairs was hard, but it was worth it knowing that the kids would go nuts over all the candy. The best part of the service experience was coming back the next day and getting to stand in the haunted hallway of the party, scaring little children. It was fun to dress up and spook the kids, and though some of them were unfazed, some of them got truly scared. The only downside was that I was wearing an itchy beard and the hallway was really hot, so I started to sweat profusely. However, this likely made me seem even more scary to the children, adding to my joy. I enjoyed knowing I was getting my service done in a fun, frightful, way.
Over the summer of 2016 I interned with the Go Project, an organization in New York City that aims to bridge the educational gap that our city’s public school system is faced with. Go Project distinguishes itself from other organizations of its kind by helping the children who are struggling the most in their schools. This is unique because most services and organizations serve the students who are succeeding the most. Effectively, kids who are already struggling in their schools continue to do so in increasingly magnified proportions, while others who are succeeding are the ones given the resources to further succeed.
My days at the Go Project were divided into two sections: professional development and class time. During professional development, I along with other interns discussed a variety of topics including segregation in New York City public schools, diversity and privilege, and educational equity. Each week we were given several articles concerning one of these subjects and then had to write a reflection based on a query and the thoughts the articles evoked in us. While I had always advocated the importance of education, as it plays a primary role in the ability for one to be socially and economically mobile and limits the presence of an aristocratic society, these sessions helped to enhance my understanding of the importance of educational equity as well as the various elements that plague our city’s education system today. Following the professional development sessions I would teach 3 music classes for first grade students. The students’ day began with the academic classes, like English, math, and science, and ended with enrichment classes, such as karate, music, and improv/drama.
This past December I decided to put my Arabic skills to use by participating in a neurological study being performed by Dr. Reem Khamis-Dakwar at Teacher’s College. The goal of the study is to examine the neurological functions of diglossia in Arabic speakers. Diglossia is the condition of a single community speaking two distinct dialects or languages, which is very prevalent in the Arab world, where the formal dialect is very different from the various spoken dialects. Dr. Khamis-Dakwar explained that her team is also studying diglossia as it applies to African American communities, where the rules of spoken language often differ greatly from the formal English taught in schools.
My job was to wear an EEG (see picture) and respond to various stimuli on a computer screen for a few hours. In this way she was able to measure my brain’s response to formal and non-formal, Arabic and non-Arabic words and sounds and then compare it to the responses of native Arabic speakers, who have a much more internalized differentiation between formal and spoken varieties than I would.
It was really fun to take part in the study, which I will likely return to in order to obtain more data as my abilities progress. I look forward to learning about Dr. Khamis-Dakwar’s results at the end of the process.
On March 21st, I had the opportunity to attend a finance literary workshop as part of a service opportunity to learn more about financial security. Having been part of an investment club for the TEAK Fellowship in which we were tasked with investing a $3,000 donation in different companies to maximize funding, I have found myself to be more and more interested in business and economics. Ever since I had failed to understand a single word of a business article in The Economist from my older brother’s stack of subscribed newspapers and magazines, I wanted to understand how money worked. To say that my short time at the First Republic Bank enlightened me with a superior understanding of the nature of cash would be ridiculous and frankly quite untrue since I still find myself baffled as to how I may start a day with 20 dollars in my pockets, buy lunch for 10 , a drink for 5, and end the day with negative 2 dollars. Nevertheless, attending the workshop and having the opportunity to speak with bankers, investors, and communication directors inspired me to learn more about stocks, markets, and why you should never register for those credit cards they send you during your first year of college. As part of the service requirement, taking time to explain some of these concepts to my peers, family, and friends also enabled me to “pay it forward” so to speak and I hope they do the same. Not only have I applied what I learned at the workshop to some of our business decisions in the investment club at TEAK, but I also hope to take that knowledge with me during my intro to business course at Columbia this summer. Despite being only three hours long, the finance literary workshop proved to be a meaningful and inspiring opportunity to learn more about a potential college major/minor.
This year I volunteered at a soup kitchen called Neighbors Together. It is in brownsvilled Brooklyn and it feeds people who are homeless or just in need of a meal. I thought that the whole experience was good for me because I saw that all different kinds of people came to get food. It was not just homeless people, but children and everyday looking people. I met many people while serving at Neighbors Together. One of the people I worked with was a women who had a main job and volunteered at Neighbors Together out of the greatness of her heart. I thought it was amazing how she, even though she did not have to, volunteered to help feed people who did not have any food. Another person I worked with was a guy who was born in North Caronlina and came to New York when he was 14 because he ran away from home. He said that when he got to the city he shinned shoes for a living and lived on the streets. He then went to places like Neighbors Together and got food and help from people who cared about others and he figured out that he wanted to help people like himself in the future. He now has a family with three children and works at Neighbors Together. His story really touched me because I felt that I had learned about how unfortunate some people are in their lives and how lucky someone like myslef is. I was a little scared to volunteer at Neighbors Together at first, but as I got comfertable with my surroundings and people started talking to me regularly, I was not scared anymore. I hope I can go back and I hope others will check out the website of Nieghbors Together, and maybe even volunteer there one day.
One of the most interesting experiences I had doing service this year was at the People’s Climate March in September. I didn’t march with the Friends group – instead, I helped my cousin, a videographer, document the event (here’s the link). Participating in the march was a powerful experience. Here were 400,000 concerned citizens taking over the busiest streets in the city to demand change (I was particularly impressed that the march shut down 42nd street). Environmental issues are a strong interest of mine, although traditional grass roots activism like this is not something I often do. I am generally more interested in the pragmatic aspects like policy change and technological innovation. Still, I was really happy about the March’s high profile, and I felt that participating in a it was a worthwhile thing to do. The March helped to highlight an important UN environmental conference, and it also came less than a year before the Paris environmental summit this summer. I felt that as a participant and documentarian of the event, I was reminding our political leaders that the public is serious about climate change.