This past year I have been volunteering at GO Project almost every saturday. GO Project is an organization that provides school services on Saturdays and during the summer for kids who attend public school. Not only does GO provide learning to the kids, it goes further than that and reaches out to the families; they have workshops each weekend for the parents to attend on a range of subjects. I spent my time helping out in a 4th grade classroom, and though at times it was difficult, it was equally amazing to see the progress the kids had made by the end of the year. I became really close with not only the students, but with the other volunteers and the head teacher of my classroom.
I also became part of two committees at GO Project; the Student Sub-Committee and the GO Getters. The GO Getters is a year round program, that is made up of high school students who volunteer at GO, in which we discuss increasing visibility of GO Project, whether it be through fundraisers or recruiting volunteers, and also continuing discussions on educational equity, and how it effects our community. The Student Sub-Committee, also made up of high school students, focuses on similar topics, however we go more deeply into connecting the students of GO Project and the students at the host schools. Educational equity has become something I am really interested in, and having two groups of students from varying high schools to have open discussions about that topic has been really liberating.
The GO Project has been a large part of my life this year, and it has been equally challenging as rewarding!
The social issue that I chose to research was early education for children from families under or near the poverty line. The non profit that my group and I visited was the Children’s Aid Society. They have many programs but we chose to focus on their early education programs. Before we researched the project I did not fully understand how serious the lack of early education was for these children. I did not think about how this issue tied into many other issues in society today. Early education greatly affects a child’s future and New York City in general. I also saw how important the education in the first five years of a child’s life, and their brain goes through the most growth in this time. I learned that without the proper education children are more likely to commit crimes in the future, fall back into poverty, and other things that affect their lives and the community.
There are many ways I could stay connected with the Children’s Aid Society. Even though most of the early education program is made up of paid teachers and social workers there are still many volunteers. I could volunteer to help the teachers in the classrooms that they have in the target neighborhoods. I could also help look after the kids while they are playing in the classrooms or during their lunch times. I could also help without physically going to their classroom locations. I could donate materials that I have from when I was younger, like toys, children’s books and other things that they need in their classrooms or help raise money for the organization. Other classmates and I could organize a book drive or toy drive to gather the materials and donate them to the Children’s Aid Society.
Throughout this year, I attended several meetings and became a part of the young women’s collation “Stop Slut” with three other sophomores, Soren Grunder, India Woolmington and Willa CT. The organizers of the Stop Slut conference, Katie Cappiello & Meg McInerney who are the founders and directors of The Arts Effect NYC, are committed to our understanding and critiquing the ways the word “slut” is used to target women in society. In the collation, we were split into groups based on school and challenged to create our own project to raise awareness about the negative impact of the word slut. The Friends Seminary group began our project by interviewing New York City locals in Union Square for a short film we are in the process of creating. This experience was eye opening to see the wide range of answers to the questions and scenarios we posed to a diverse group of people.
Here’s a short clip from our first day working in Union Square:
Overall, I’ve loved working with the Stop Slut coalition and have learned so much about important and prevalent issues in society such as trafficking and slut shaming. It’s such an amazing environment to be around girls our age who are as passionate about these issues as we are.
Over spring break, I, along with 12 upper school students and 3 faculty members, visited China. In addition to learning more about Chinese culture and the Chinese language, we had several opportunities to serve the communities that we visited. During our time in Beijing, we visited the Dandelion School, which provides education to the children of migrant workers, who can only attend the public schools in their city of birth. Because these students cannot enroll in Beijing’s public schools, the Dandelion School gives them educational opportunities that they do not otherwise have access to. The Dandelion School was founded in April 2005 and has successfully served its students since. At the Dandelion School, we facilitated various activities for the students to participate in while learning more about the school and it students. (For more information about the Dandelion School, please visit this link: http://www.dandelionschool.org/_old/e_gi/e_gi_news/e_gi_news_0005.htm).
When we visited Suzhou, we participated in an Urban Issues Colloquium with the students of Suzhou No. 2 High School. We shared and discussed urban issues and learned that issues such as pollution, overpopulation, and transportation are common to both our cities. We also asked each other questions about the urban environment in which we live and brainstormed possible solutions to our respective urban issues.
During my time in China, I had the opportunity to interact with the students in all of the schools that we visited and with our tour guides and bus drivers. I was able to reconnect with my native culture through these interactions and remind myself of what it was like to live in China and of the issues, particularly urban and educational, that abound there. I believe that global travel is an important opportunity for students to experience because through global travel, my fellow community members and I were able to learn more about the culture of China, including the prevalent problems that the residents there commonly face. During this trip, I was challenged to revisit a culture with which I was once familiar and remind myself how privileged I am to live in New York, to go to Friends Seminary, and to not have to worry about many of the issues that concern Chinese residents. Furthermore, through this experience, I realized the responsibility that I have, both as a Chinese American and as a privileged citizen of the world, to make a difference in the world and try to fix the issues that I learned about in China when I grow up.
During Community Service Day at school my grade went to Yonkers to work with an organization called “AFYA“. We worked in their warehouse organizing donated medical supplies. It was incredibly fun working with my grade in the warehouse then eating lunch together.
What I learned about AFYA was that we were working in their main warehouse that receives huge shipments of donated medical supplies. Additionally, we were preforming the first (of many) sorting of the medical supplies.
Volunteers play a large role in making AFYA’s job of sorting the immense amount of very different types of medical supplies. Volunteers not only lend extra hands to AFYA but helps them realize its mission by showing that many people support the cause they do.
I would absolutely recommend this organization to others who want to volunteer because it is not only hard work and a workout on ones brain and body, but it’s fun to sort the supplies with others and it brought me closer to my classmates and I’m sure it can bring you closer to whoever you volunteer and work with at AFYA.
Over the course of the last few weeks. I did a lot of work helping with the empty bowls project. I helped to glaze a lot of pottery and then helped sell the bowls at the big Empty Bowls Ice Cream Social. This event was a lot of fun because I am in pottery class at school so it was great to combine something that I really enjoy with getting my service done. It was also great to see how excited kids and parents got when they saw all the work we had done. Empty bowls donates the money earned from selling the pots to Hunger in the US. I personally think that hunger in our nation is such an important issue so I was so happy to help out. This was such a rewarding activity and I am so happy I got to be a part of it! f
YPI Service Learning
For my YPI service-learning project I visited the GO Project. My group members and I found common social values in competence, family, and personal growth, and we decided that youth education was one of the closest embodiments of those values. The GO Project works with families in downtown New York to help struggling elementary and middle school students keep up with the curriculum and supplement their learning if their schools are under resourced and unable to provide students with the tools that they need to succeed in high school and beyond. When I began working with the GO Project, I went into the project with the mindset that while these students were under resourced, the reason that they would be going to the GO project was that they were in some was “slow” meaning that they would either have a learning disability or that they would just be incredibly slow learners. However, after visiting the GO Project and seeing the third grade students testing and taking part in learning activities, I realized that they were really just normal students who were in no was mentally disabled and in no way less intelligent. They tested just like normal students, asked questions just like normal students, and occasionally didn’t pay attention just like normal students.
In order to continue working with the GO Project I would be happy to continue volunteering with them over the weekends for the Saturday Program. Besides volunteering however, one of the most important things that can be done to help the GO Project is to raise awareness for the social issue that they are trying to combat. Too many students in NYC are underprivileged and aren’t given the opportunity to succeed and strive academically, even though they may be very intelligent. YPI was a great outlet for letting people know about various social issues in New York, but YPI does not mark the end of raising awareness or helping our non-profit organizations. I hope to continue my work with the GO project throughout high school and to provide students with the resources, confidence, and skills that they need to succeed throughout the remainder of their academic career.
On Tuesday, April 19, my advisory went to the New York Common Pantry. We took the 6 train to the Pantry and almost instantly began working. We were broken up into groups of two, with each group being assigned a different task around the pantry. The jobs included stacking, creating assorted food bags to give out, organizing, and more.
Working at the New York Common Pantry was not only a fun experience, but also was a meaningful one as well. I learned how some single mothers come to the pantry with as many as 14 children to feed, and how this pantry has played such a major role in its area. It’s a job that requires constant effort, and proved to me how willing the people working at the Pantry are to do this everyday.
This year I fulfilled my out-of-school service requirement by working with Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is a non-profit organization that works to promote affordable health care and sex education by providing reproductive and maternal health services to women, which includes cancer screening, HIV testing, contraception, and abortion. The organization is also very involved in the counciling aspect of health services as well as lobbying for health care rights and pro-choice legislation.
In the middle of the year I spent my Wednesday afternoons at Planned Parenthood NYC in Soho, exploring the different programs that PPFA (Planned Parenthood Federation of America) offers, completing exercises and worksheets for the organization, working with the staff for upcoming projects, and also learning new information about the increasing struggle for women of different cultures and different sexualities to get affordable, fair health care.
Overall, my service at Planned Parenthood was really rewarding because I was actively doing something that I cared about, and I will continue to do it in the years to come and hopefully form a strong relationship with the organization.
I researched homelessness with addiction and mental illness in New York City. The majority of the homeless population in NYC struggles with an addiction and/or a mental illness. My group chose the Bowery Residents Committee, or BRC for short, as our non-profit organization. BRC is one of the only organizations, if not the only one, that specifically targets addiction and mental illness with homelessness. They believe that mental illness and addiction go hand in hand with homelessness, and to decrease the homeless population they have to help the ones who struggle with these problems.
This project affected my view of homelessness in NYC greatly. I never realized how big of a role addiction and mental illness play in homelessness. Our site visit at BRC was very informative and eye-opening. Muzzy Rosenblatt, the Executive Director of BRC talked to us for a long time about this problem and how they help their clients with it at BRC. He told us that the staff tries to form relationships with the clients. He also told us stories about present day BRC clients and how he helped them get their lives together. We took a tour of BRC. There were many bright colors on the walls, and it seemed like a very happy place. We visited the offices, and were able to meet and talk to some BRC clients in the art room and the cafeteria. They all seemed very glad to meet us and be clients of BRC. Actually meeting the people who struggle with this problem was the most rewarding part of the project.