This summer I interned at an organization called Earth Matter, a composting learning center and urban farm located on Governors Island. Earth Matter was founded in 2009 and seeks to reduce the amount of organic waste that is misdirected into the general trash flow. They hope to accomplish this by encouraging leadership in community composting and educating people of all ages about compost. Earth Matter collects all the waste that is produced on Governors Island as well as household food scraps gathered from greenmarkets around the city. As an intern, I helped to process this organic waste, care for the animals at the center (chickens, goats and rabbits), and tend various crops. I also was in charge of maintaining a compost device called the three bin system.
Along with these general tasks there was always a lot of activity at Earth Matter. Every Friday volunteers and groups ranging from young children to adults came to the compost learning center. I helped to lead these volunteers in various tasks and taught them more about the processes of composting, animal care, and gardening. While at times it could be hard to manage a large group, it was also amazing to witness the amount of work we could collectively complete in a matter of hours.
My overall experience at Earth Matter was extremely rewarding because I felt like I was making a tangible difference. Sometimes it can be pretty overwhelming and depressing to think about how much we waste as a society. However, even though the amount of food scraps we were processing at Earth Matter on a daily basis was relatively small, it’s a step in the right direction. I realized by educating others we can change people’s mentalities when it comes to trash. Through education and optimism we can make a difference and reduce the amount of waste produced. Overall, it was fantastic to learn more about composting and share this information with a broad array of people.
This past summer I spent about six and a half weeks working at an organization called CRF (Coral Restoration Foundation) down in Key Largo, Florida. Two huge parts of the Keys’ economy are diving as well as the tourism opportunities that come with it and fishing. However, over the course of the past thirty or so years, the reefs surrounding this area have been decimated due to the multitude of hurricanes the area has experienced, overfishing, and water pollution among a variety of other factors. Thus, with this depletion of coral, the whole reef ecosystem has been jeopardized as well as the Keys’ economy. To combat this, the Coral Restoration Foundation works to grow coral and plant it back on the reef as well as spread awareness about this issue.
Before I even arrived at the Coral Restoration Foundation, I thought I would be on the front lines of the effort, scuba diving daily and planting coral by the ton. So, when my first task was to build a PVC pipe tree, I was a little surprised. These trees are used to hang the growing coral underwater until they are ready to be planted in a reef. I spent hours on end building trees and putting them together. I thought this was merely a warmup task and that soon I would be getting in the water. Once again, I was mistaken. I spent much of my days working in the education center, answering phone calls and helping to teach visitors about CRF’s cause and effort. These conversations were rewarding as I felt as if this dialogue was helping spread awareness of this issue and shining a bigger light on it.
On my last day of work, I finally received an opportunity to get in the water. Myself, along with fifteen or so other staff members and individuals, went out to a reef, collected the fully grown coral from the PVC trees and then planted them underwater. This experience was a great finale to all my work, as I now got to see all my hard work come to fruition in the form of real, tangible results. However, this day also led to me to another realization. Plenty of people want to go underwater and scuba dive, and CRF will never find a shortage of individuals who want to do that. Thus, its the other aspects of the organization, some of the things that I took part in, that is where Coral Restoration foundation needs the most help. I realized that service can take many different forms, and even if it feels like what you’re doing is not as flashy or “cool” as some of the other methods of service, it is often times that those types often result in the biggest impact, which is truly what service is about.
During the month of May, my history teacher, Kristen Fairey, asked our class to research an area around the school and create a walking tour based on this research. I, with two others, chose to research Irving Place and give the tour on a Saturday at around 12:00. Parents and students alike signed up for our tour, where we investigated the history of Irving Place and the person whom the street was named after, Washington Irving. We all learned useful and interesting tidbits about the different buildings that line Irving Place and we were able to show our knowledge through the walking tour. It was a really fulfilling feeling to be able to bestow information that we had learned upon the community.
Since August, I have interned with the Center for Court Innovation as a member of the Youth Justice Board. The Youth Justice Board is a program in which high school students from all over the city come together to research and write recommendations to address an issue that NYC youth are facing. This year, it was to increase the amount of pre arrest diversion options for youth ages 16-24 and to improve police youth relations for a safer community. New York is one of two states in which the age of criminal responsibility is 16. Therefore, if someone commits a crime as a teenager, it can be on his/her record for the rest of his/her life. Having a criminal record can be detrimental when applying for jobs, housing and schools. Many youth who have records as teens are arrested for petty crimes that have large penalties because of the ineffective theory of Broken Windows. The idea of Broken Windows is that people who commit smaller crimes will eventually commit more serious crimes, therefore, punishing people harshly for smaller crimes will deter them. However, it has been proven ineffective has the majority of people who go to jail have already been to jail. By punishing someone harshly for small crimes, they are already involved with the criminal justice system which can lead them to be repeat offenders.
Rather than punish teens for the rest of their lives based on the mistakes they make as young people, diversion is restorative. Essentially, diversion is a type of program which is an alternative to jail and a record. If the person completes the diversion program, then his/her record is sealed. If the person doesn’t, then he/she doesn’t go directly to jail but rather goes through the justice system.
I learned a lot this year, not only about how flawed the criminal justice system is, but about being an advocate.
I began to get involved with Empty Bowls last year and I did a lot of work on the charity with Michael Lowe this year. Empty Bowls is grass roots movement to fight hunger where students will make ceramic bowls and learn about the issues of hunger in their community. At the end of the year these bowls are sold and all of the proceeds go to Share Our Strength to fight hunger. The charity is a great way to both get hands on and make something tangible as well as learn about important issues. This year I helped students make, glaze, and fire bowls at multiple sessions. At the end of the year I worked with a few students and Phyllis to box and label the bowls so we begin next year with a head start on the bowls for our final event and have our organizing system pre-set.
At every session I would give a brief hunger talk about issues facing NYC and students can do to fix them. The first step is knowledge, and many people don’t know that 25% of households with children in cities are food insecure. People are also surprised that in New York, the Empire State, about one in seven people are unsure of where their next meal is coming from. Hunger issues run even deeper than this, with the cut off for receiving benefits set at an incredibly low level and the benefits equating to about $2.17 per person per meal. Many Americans live in so called food deserts without access to fresh fruit and vegetables and must drive for extended amounts of time of take public transit. Beyond presenting issues I like to talk about certain ways people can help fight hunger in their community. I provide information on local food kitchens that allow teenage volunteers, churches that host family events, such as the sandwich drive at my local church on the Upper West Side, and box top campaigns hosted by popular brands that pledge donations to fight hunger. With Empty Bowls, it has been an incredible experience to shine a light on the issue of food insecurity in our city and empower students with the tools to tackle the issue.
I have always found myself to be a math and science kid, so it made sense to me that I would tutor in Chemistry and lead Chemistry Review. I am also in the AP Chemistry class this year, so much of the content they were studying I had to know for the course. I love opportunities to look at concepts from a new perspective and helping students with chemistry gave me a chance to see things in a new light. Throughout the year, the students I helped made me look at ideas that always made sense to me and articulate them more clearly. As I did this, I found myself gaining a deeper understanding of the content I was explaining. I was also able to speak with the chemistry teachers about what I found to be the main concepts confusing students.
One particularly interesting tutoring session I had was when I was explaining how a certain diagram related to something called resonance structures. The way the picture was drawn, it looked as though a molecule was doing three separate motions in rotation, where in reality it was doing all three at the same time. It was incredibly gratifying to see the aha moment on her face when it all clicked, a feeling remember having about the subject (unfortunately after I took the test for that particular unit). Looking forward, I can’t wait to continue to bring my love of science to the student body at friends in the coming year as I take AP physics and hopefully tutor another student.
In July I went on a Putney Student Travel trip to Ecuador with 14 students and 2 leaders. For two and a half weeks my group stayed in a village called Chilacapamba in the home of the Morales family. During … Continue reading →
This past summer I have been able to partake in a number of rare experiences that were very special. I was able to participate in a few college level courses, travel around the world, spend lots of time with friends and family, among a slew of others. These wonderful opportunities and adventures in turn made me a more genial and jovial person, always eager to discover what the next activity would have in store.
This summer I also was able to serve with two charitable organizations, both with somewhat mutual goals. God’s Love We Deliver aims to assist those who are homebound or have trouble purchasing and collecting food by delivering meals several times a week, free of charge. My role was that of deliverer, as I went from apartment complex to apartment complex in uptown manhattan dropping off meal packages with clients of GLWD. The buildings were often tenebrous and dreary, with dark hallways and melancholy wall paper. However, the residents were anything but dreary, with glowing smiles and warm personalities. The appreciativeness and happiness illuminated by something as simple as a quick visit and a few bites to eat really struck me. I had never met any of these people and yet they acted as if we had been friends for years.
The other organization I worked with was that of the Friends Shelter, an organization that provides those who are homeless with a meal and a bed for the night, located in the common room. In working with them I collected materials and then cooked a meal, usually some sort of pasta or meat accompanied by a vegetable and desert. I would then travel to school and drop the meal off at the common room. The supervisors for the night were always amicable, friendly, and very grateful for the meal. “They’re really gonna love this”, I remember the supervisor saying one July night. “This desert especially is going to make them so happy”. Once again, I was taken aback by the shear joy caused by something as simple as a few brownies and a bowl of pasta. A quality of life that I would deem as ordinary or common to really put a smile on people’s faces was something novel to me. Something so simple and fundamental to life itself is capable of giving great happiness and joy.
I have learned from my experiences that one does not need to travel around the world, drive nice cars, or any other luxuries of life to be happy. Rather, the simple things in life really are what makes life special.
This year, I joined a girl’s coalition called Stop Slut with the other sophomores Willa CT, Soren Grunder, and Dana Franco. In a series of meetings, girls from all around New York and New Jersey gathered to talk about issues such as Slut shaming and bullying, rape culture, and sex trafficking, as well as brainstorming ways that girls and boys alike, here in NYC, can make a difference. Not only did all the girls in the coalition meet to learn about and discuss these important issues, but we were all also assigned projects targeted at teaching and inspiring others to start thinking about these concepts. For the Friends Seminary project, we decided to begin making our own documentary by interviewing new yorkers through questions relating to slut shaming and rape, and although the project isn’t finished yet, we plan to work on the film more over the summer and hopefully have it completed by next year!
Working on this project and being a part of the Stop Slut coalition taught me so much about issues affecting women and girls alike, not only in our own city, but across the world, as well as it helped me with my collaboration abilities and work planning. I am so fortunate to have been given this opportunity to work with such amazing girls and women, as well as with Meg Mclnerny and Katherine Cappiello, the founders of the coalition and directors of the Stop Slut the play, and I hope that in the near future our project and the work of all the Stop Slut coalition can be shown to the Friends Community.
For the past couple months, I have assisted Derek Reid and Andrew Domanico in teaching their Kindergarten physical education class once a week. I helped Derek and Andrew with a number of tasks, whether it was setting up equipment, instructing the kids, or simply doing whatever they needed. At the beginning of my time working with this class, I noticed that perhaps the kids were a bit timid or intimidated by me. However, I cannot really blame me for this, as they had never seen me before and were a good two feet shorter than me. Heck, I too would have been taken aback by a towering giant entering my class out of no where. However, as I began interact and play with these kids more and more, they gradually became more comfortable around me. I played in their games, did similar activities, and talked with them, just like another kindergartener would do, and really enjoyed myself. They soon began to realize that I really was not a whole lot different than themselves. I would often times be the subject of their laughter as Derek or Andrew cracked a witty joke or one of their classmates got me in a game of tag. Thus, when I instructed them how to throw properly or hold a baseball bat, the dynamics were different from one of the actual teachers giving them instruction. While they still respected me and recognized that I was older, they thought of me as just another big kid in their class, which allowed me to really enhance their physical education experience.
While it was my duty to instruct and teach these children, in reality they were really teaching me. From these experiences, I have become cognizant of the true value of interacting and being in the lives of those who are younger than yourself. It allows you to not only set an example of how one should behave or act in life, but it helps to knock down the barrier between those who are younger and older. While the difference in age might be large, what is inside these two groups of people really is very largely similar.