Over the summer, I participated in a GoPutney student travel program to Dominica, a country in the Caribbean, for 3 weeks. This trip was centered around community service for hurricane relief in the town of Bense, as the country of Dominica was affected greatly by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. There were 13 other students on this trip (grades 10-12) from all over the United States. Throughout the three weeks spent in Dominica, our days consisted of working on community service from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. After lunch we had opportunities to interact with the local children, hike to a waterfall in Upper Bense, or visit beaches in Anse De Mai. During our three weeks, we were able to rebuild multiple garbage huts and bus stops, paint the exterior and interior of an elderly woman’s home, lay concrete for the floor of a hurricane shelter, and clean up beaches.
Each weekend, our group left the small town of Bense for weekend excursions to the larger towns of Portsmouth and Roseau. In Portsmouth we visited Fort Shirley and had dinner at a restaurant by the beach. We spent our second weekend in the Roseau Valley and stayed in a small hotel for 2 nights, where we were finally able to sleep on real beds, instead of camping mattresses on the floor of the Bense Resource Center! While in Roseau we took a hike to two neighboring waterfalls, one being the tallest waterfall in Dominica.
Through this summer program, not only was I able to connect to people who live all over the United States, but also meet new friends in an entirely different country. Although at the end of the trip I was excited to return to my family and routine, I will remember the bonds I made and experiences I had in Dominica for years.
When working on the Youth Philanthropy Project, I improved my skills in public speaking and communicating with outside professionals and groups. Through the YPI project, I was able to learn much more about immigrant health issues and the barriers for immigrants in health care. This project showed me that this issue is relevant to my life and is happening all around me. In order to remain engaged with my organization (AMPHS, Academy of Medical and Public Services), I could volunteer when I am above 16 and could also donate or provide any services needed. I found that the most challenging part of the project was finding an organization that related to our social issue (medical health in immigrants) and reaching out to them.
During my time in politics class, I had the opportunity to research and compare the platforms of both presidential candidates. This was not only interesting, but it helped show me, my class, and the rest of the upper school the actual wording of both candidates and not be distracted by the media narratives surrounding them. Through this project, I learned more about how media coverage shapes my opinions and how to better research political issues so that I can be a more involved citizen.
This year I took Kristen Fairey’s Ethnic New York class, where I spent the semester researching my neighborhood, Yorkville. I started by reading up on the general history of New York City. I then spent many days at the main NYPL browsing the archives for both primary and secondary accounts of Yorkville, from its creation in the 1850s to what it has become today. In addition, I spent a total of 10 hours on the streets of my neighborhood, observing the ethnographic life and architecture and taking detailed field notes. My extensive research culminated in a paper detailing Yorkville’s journey from farmland to high rises, as well as a visual exhibit in the Rosenquist Gallery summarizing my research. I thoroughly enjoyed the research process, and was surprised to find a depth of diversity in the history of Yorkville, despite its vanilla reputation.
Every Sunday from 9 -11am, I go to the Abyssinian Baptist Church to assist in their Youth Ministry. Instead of going upstairs to the Sanctuary, I stay downstairs with the Sunday School and participate as a Youth Worship Leader. In this position, I help lead devotion for the kids as well as help the Sunday School Teachers. This year the Sunday School put on two productions, one for Christmas and one for Palm Sunday, both of which I assisted as a Stage Manager.
My church community has been extremely influential in my upbringing. By helping out with Sunday School, I am able to give back to the community that helped keep me grounded and guide me throughout life. I hope to have the same impact on the kids in Sunday School as my teachers had on me.
I’m currently enrolled in Stefan Stawnychy’s Politics, Power, and Citizenship class. Most of our class discussion is focused on the 2016 presidential election, so in order to have an easy way to reference the candidate’s stances, we created a website that compares Clinton’s and Trump’s views on various issues. Edie Astley and I gathered the information on Trump’s and Clinton’s economic policies / vision and made a side by side list of what their stances are. We found these directly from their respective websites so as to exclude as much bias as possible.
We are sharing this website with the Friends community to give students an easy way to learn more about specific issues within the election.
This past summer and fall, I volunteered at the GO Project, where underprivileged children can have access to high quality education and resources. My responsibilities included helping the children focus and finish their projects. It was truly amazing to see the children who I helped teach improve by leaps and bounds over the course of my time there. Although it was very challenging, I was able to learn patience and collaborative skills from dealing with the children. I was also able to see education from an educators perspective which helped me understand how people learn. In addition, I learned about the great problem of educational inequity in New York and the US in general. I believe my experience was very positive overall, and I learned as much as the children in my class did.
Monday Night Hospitality is the soup kitchen run by the All Souls Church in my neighborhood. The kitchen provides more than 30,000 meals a year to all those in need. On Monday nights, a group of about 10 or 15 volunteers and I work together to set the tables, prep and cook the meals, serve the guests, and clean everything up afterwards. I help out at the kitchen every Monday I can; it is a wonderful environment of people who are all passionate about helping others and working together to provide a warm restaurant-style meal to those who need it most. I was able to connect with a diverse group of people that I wouldn’t normally interact with. Helping out at the soup kitchen is eye opening because it forces me to really appreciate the many privileges and opportunities I have, while also fueling my desire to actively work towards eliminating socio-economic disparities in America.
In September, I started volunteering to be a teacher’s assistant for Dance for Joy Ministries. Dance for Joy is my ballet school that I have been dancing with since the age of four. This year a new group of dancers, ages 6 to 12 have started taking classes. My ballet teacher asked my if I would be willing to come in on Saturdays, to help her with the class. I’m so glad I said yes because it was been one of the most rewarding experiences.
Every Saturday at 12:30 I go to Pearl Studios on 36th Street ad 8th Ave. One of the best things about volunteering to help is seeing all of the talent these little girls have. Seeing these girls learning their first ballet steps helped me to understand why my ballet teacher would have us practice basic skills like “plier” and “tendu”. The skills we learn when we first start taking classes set the groundwork that allows us to be able to become more advanced and perform more complicated combinations.
Additionally, getting to connect and joke around with the girls was really rewarding as it allowed me to be a role model. One of the little girls named Nyla said to me, “I’m afraid to move up to the big girls class. It seems hard. I don’t know how you do it. I’ll never be able to do that.” I smiled at her because I remembered feeling the exact same way. I told her if she keeps coming to class she would get better and better and before she knew it she would be dancing with the “big girls”. While I was an assistant I helped the girls with technique, make corrections, lead stretches and helped them practice their dances. I believe that doing all of these things helped me to become a better dancer because it allowed me to refresh and tighten up my technique as well.
I look forward to continuing to help out with the class and I hope to see all of the girls grow to be strong dancers.
Going to South Africa was life changing. Not only were we able to have an impact on the people we met and the places we went, we were able to look in the mirror and change ourselves and change the way we think. We were able to stay in a township with the people of Red Location, learn about their lives, learn about their culture, and their history. Developing a bond with the people of South Africa made the trip even more amazing. We were giving the opportunity to have authentic interactions with the people and do real work that would have an impact on their lives. One moment that sticks out is when we visited the Methodist Church of South Africa and we helped them with their community outreach. We went with members of the church into the homes of people who could not make it to church and needed extra support spiritually, emotionally, and with their living supplies. Seeing the impact the church was able to make on its home-stricken members was very eye-opening. It also made me feel more aware of the different types of outreach provided by various groups.