Rick Mortenson’s Experiences Teaching a Kindergarten PE Class

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.

Olivia Boreham-Wing’s service reflection

Last Saturday, I helped with check in at the reunion held at Friends. I did not expect to be as inspired as I did by all of the alumni–what they have gone on to do with their lives after Friends, and the memories that they had from the school. A couple of the alumni even began tearing up when they arrived, after either seeing the massive changes in the school since they were here or simply the flood of memories that came when they walked in. I hope that I was able to make an impact on the alumni by showing them what a current Friends Seminary student is like–something that I am extremely proud to call myself. Being a new student this year, I have really felt such a sense of community, and I hope that I, too, like the alumni, will return to Friends one day and remember that unique sense of community as they did. Seeing how fondly they remembered the school and their time here inspired me to make the most of my time at Friends, as I know that I will remember it as fondly after I graduate.

Helen DuGan’s Service Reflection

For part of my service this year, I went to the East River Track with some members of the winter track team to plant daffodil bulbs. It was the start of the winter, and very cold. We dug little holes using big shovels, then a student would place the daffodil bulb into the ditch. We made rows of daffodils all over the park adjacent to the track.  I ran cross country, winter track, and spring track, so four days a week, every week, I spent about two hours at the track. Adding up all the days of practice over the year, I spent a significant amount of my senior year at the track. As a distance runner, sometimes we went for runs along the river for some miles. I am leaving to go to college, but I  hope that the work we did will make the track a little more beautiful for all the underclassmen who will spend as much time at the track as I did.

Michelle’s Service Reflection: Project Cicero

I participated in the weekend service event of Project Cicero. This organization’s main goal is to provide under-resourced New York City public school classes libraries with books through their annual book drive. While I was there I learned that Project Cicero also works to supply books for other under serviced programs such as homeless shelters, juvenile detention facilities, community centers etc. I spent the weekend sorting an organizing thousands of books to showcase for the teachers who could hand select what they want for their classrooms. Most of the other books would be shipped to wherever they were needed. There was a large amount of kids from various places around the city who came to help organize. The process of organizing the books made me realize how high the demand is for high quality books around the city. It was also eye opening to see other kids who were excited to help.

Gems (Girls Educational and Mentoring Services) YPI Service Reflection Javin Bose

GEMS YPI Service Learning Reflection

The commercial sexual exploitation of girls in this country and this city is an issue, which for the past several decades has been one of the most secretive criminal industries in the world.  In this city alone, there are thousands of girls between the ages of 12 and 24 sexually exploited every single day, which in a nation whose core values are freedom and equality, is unacceptable.  Thankfully, after the hundreds of years that this injustice has been occurring, people are starting to realize the importance of this issue.  People are starting to realize just how far the commercial sexual exploitation of girls spans and just how close to home it occurs.  This generation is the future of our city, our country, and our world, and if the children of this generation aren’t safe, then our future is not secure.  People in this country who are not exposed to this issue, tend to think that these atrocities only happen in countries like Cambodia and India.  Until people realize that their cities and neighborhoods aren’t as safe as they may seem, and until those who do know about this issue start to realize that the only way to stop these heinous crimes is to empower the exploited youth, and inform the thousands of children at risk, the country that many of us pride ourselves in creating is no better than the countries that we see on the news every single day.  Finally, there is an organization full of unbelievably dedicated and amazing people, who realize what this issue is and how to put an end to it.  That organization is called Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS).


Gems was founded by one of the most amazing people I have ever met, her name is Rachel Lloyd.  After growing up in the United Kingdom in an unstable and often abusive home, Rachel who at the time was just a teenager left her home and fell into the dark and seemingly endless hole that is sex trafficking.  She was sold, beaten, raped, gang raped, and nearly killed by both her abusive captors, and herself as a result of her numerous suicide attempts.  Rachel; however, was lucky enough to escape the sex industry and relocate to the United States to work as a missionary to help victims of sex trafficking.  And in 1998, at the age of 23, Rachel founded Gems with 30 dollars and a borrowed computer, which now has helped thousands of girls directly and reached out to tens of thousands more.  Gems’ mission is to empower victims of sex trafficking aged 12-24 and help them achieve their full potential, as well as putting an end to the commercial sex industry by changing individual lives, transforming public perception, and revolutionizing the systems and policies that impact sexually exploited youth.  Gems helped 357 girls in 2013 and reached over 1500 children through their hugely successful outreach initiative.  They provide court mandated sessions, medical and psychological care, educational help and GED tutoring, crisis and semi permanent housing for up to two years, among many other services to help the girls who come to Gems get back on their feet and feel empowered.  Gems also helped pass the milestone Safe Harbor Act, which ensures in the state of New York that a victim of child sexual exploitation, will not be prosecuted and thrown in prison for being a victim of statutory rape, which happened and still happens far too often.


1) In what ways did your attitude toward our social issue change over the course of the project?

When I first heard about and started to research this issue I had a similar reaction to that which I see whenever I try to explain this issue to someone else.  There are generally three barriers, which the mind seems to put up when faced with a reality that is so hard to believe.  The first step is shock and disbelief, followed by someone trying to rationalize the idea by saying that it happens in different countries or that it’s a small anomaly in this country.  Finally, people start accusing the girls of being insecure, or having a mental disability, or just wanting to have sex at a young age as a form of fun or rebellious behaviour.  These reactions are understandable given the shocking nature of the reality, which people need to face.


2) What skills did you develop over the project?

When faced with this project and this issue, which I grew more and more concerned and involved with, I worked a lot on my public speaking skills, as well as interpersonal skills when meeting members of Gems and our interview with two members of their team.  Furthermore, I found myself devoting a large amount of time to editing media to make it appealing to our audience as well as the presentation, which we presented.  Team work also played a huge role in this project, which proved challenging, but ended up being an enriching experience.  The biggest thing I took away from this is learning about this issue and in the process meeting people like Nicholas Krystof, Kennedy Odede, Rachel Lloyd, and learning about nonprofits all around the world like Shining Hope for Communities, Half the Sky, The Polaris Project, and Gems.


3) What aspect of the project did you find most challenging?

The most challenging part of this project was getting in touch with and meeting with people who are so busy and dedicated 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  Despite the challenges, I think it was well worth the work.


4) What aspect of the project did you find most rewarding?

Meeting the people that I was able to meet was one of the most rewarding aspects of this project.  It also felt great to be involved in a cause so much bigger than yourself and to learn about an issue, which is so hidden and secretive, yet the second biggest criminal industry on Earth after the drug trade.  I’ll never forget meeting a man with an amazing story at the beginning of this project named Kennedy Odede, who along with his wife started Shining Hope for Communities.  He told me that, “the absolute worst thing you can do is have the opportunity to have a world class education and waste it”.  I’ve found myself thinking about this quote and how it ties into the way I look at things and the way others think about the issues that face us.


5) How might you remain engaged with your social issue or nonprofit organization?

I definitely want to stay engaged in this issue in the future.  A member of my group has secured a spot for Rachel Lloyd to speak at Friends Seminary in late May, and next year we as a group have been considering a fundraiser for Gems and/or other projects who help victims of sex trafficking both in the United States and worldwide, where over 800,000 people are trafficked every year.


Jason’s Experience with Project Cicero

This past March, I got the privilege to work with Project Cicero.  Project Cicero is an organization that accepts donated books and then sorts them into groups.  After the sorting is completed, teachers come to choose from the sorted books for their own classrooms.  The sorting is a very complicated and detailed process; however, once you are doing for about 10 minutes you get the hang of which books go in what group.  The environment is a very supportive one and there are always people there willing to help you find the proper group for books if you are ever unsure.  While the room became very hectic at points, the organization was overall a well oiled machine.  At any given point it can seem like not much is being done, but by the end of the four hours, the room will have transformed from a pile of thousands to books to lots of organized boxes of books stacked neatly into piles.

I worked with Project Cicero two days this year.  On my first day I was assigned to organize books.  We would take books from old boxes and sort the books into fresh, new boxes.  I would grab a stack of books at a time and walk around sorting multiple at a time rather than grab one each time.  I did this for about an hour and felt very rewarded after sorting hundreds of books.  However, this was not the end of my contributions.  Soon, I got pulled over by someone that worked with the organization and got asked to helped crush old boxes that could not be reused.  This process involved stepping on and ripping apart books. This is another one of the positions a volunteer could occupy for Project Cicero.  Not only are there these two, fun and rewarding positions but there are others as well if you are looking for a more relaxed position or a more heavy lifting one.  Book sorting and box crushing can get pretty intense at points, but there is box lifting for a more heavy lifting job and box checking for a more relaxed job.  Box checking is where people sit by boxes and double check that all the books inserted into the book is in its proper group.  My first day was pretty relaxed compared to the first since the teachers did not come on the first day.

My second day, I returned to crushing boxes and even got assigned to moving dumpsters up and down from our room and the basement.  While, this job seems pretty gross, you really develop a relationship with the other people you are working with and are constantly in motion so you don’t even realize the dirt on your hands.  Throughout my second day, I shifted back and forth between sorting books and box crushing.  With all the teachers visiting every 30 minutes, book sorting was much more intense the second day and would stop when the teachers entered which is when I would return to box crushing.  Honestly, I found the environment to be warm and welcoming and you are almost never standing still so definitely come prepared to work, but by the end the work is very rewarding and you will truly feel like you made a huge contribution to the overall goal.

Dylan Rizzo’s Reflection Spring Fair Service

Recently, I volunteered with some of my peers in the upperschool to help run Friends Seminary’s annual Spring Fair. Infact, this is the fourth year in a row that I have come to the Spring Fair to do service. This year I worked the ski ball game with Crawford Peyton. It has always been meaningful to have the opportunity to work directly with students in the school. It really enforced the Friends Seminary ideal of community.

It is unfortunate that this will be my last year doing service for Friends and volunteering at the Spring Fair. It always provided a meaningful outlet and way of connecting with the students in the school, no matter their grade.

Jasper Stallings Project Cicero

This past March I got the chance to spend a weekend working with Project Cicero. The aim of the project is to collect books over the course of the year and distribute them in one hectic weekend to all of the teachers from underfunded schools to give their classes all the opportunities they deserve. The project takes place in the gold ballroom of the Pennsylvania hotel in midtown Manhattan, a much more elegant space then you might expect for a service event but it really did seem fitting when the event got up and running and student and teachers alike were hopping all round the ballroom picking up and moving books wherever they were needed. Upon first walking into the ballroom on Friday I was greeted with a space so full of  boxes there was barely room for the volunteers to maneuver around the brown cardboard towers. Our job was to take the mixed boxes and sort all of books into the various the receptacles to which they belonged at each corner of the room. Categories were topical, such as for science or history and also by the expected age of the readers. Admittedly even for someone who is unfazed by the midtown crowd on the streets just outside that hotel, the crowd of volunteers running from station to station throwing books wherever they belonged was a bit overwhelming. Soon enough though I was up to speed and was running around like the best of them racing against myself to put the books exactly where they belonged. The librarians who helped to run the event where never far if one had a question about the categorization of some vague books and were very kind to all the volunteers.

I returned to Project Cicero both Saturday and Sunday and it was then that things really heated up and we got to see the fruits of our labor. On those two last days of the event we continued to sort the books but this time into place for the hordes of teachers rushing about to get their students the very best books that they could find. Even though the books weren’t for them the faces of the teachers as they left the room, nearly covered by the pile of books in their arms, were so happy that I couldn’t help but get infected with all of the good feelings washing over that room. I left project cicero with a felling that I sadly don’t always get from my community service opporunities. I felt that I had truly gotten the chance to work hard to get something done and that I had had a direct effect in helping someone else. I would recommend that anyone who can deal with a little bit of stress and a crowded room get out and help at Project Cicero next year.



Friendship Circle

Every Sunday for the past year I have gone to play with Lauren, a nine-year old autistic girl who is a part of the Friendship Circle program. It is an organization that works to help children with special needs and get them involve in social and Judaic experiences. My one hour with Lauren each weeks involves activities from  making a sticker book, to playing hide and seek, to going to the park. This experience has improved me as a person and served as the highlight of my weekends.

Working with Lauren has not only bonded me with her, but with her family as well. Because we play at her house, I have developed a close relationship with her family, one which I hope to maintain throughout the years. Through the Friendship Circle, I have made new friendships and had new experiences, which has enriched me as a person.

YPI: The GO Project

Declan Smith

The social issue my group and I researched was the quality of public youth education in New York City. We found that the New York City public schools are not where they need to be. We found that an astounding 354 received a C rating, 79 received a D rating, and 32 received an F rating. We thought that these numbers were too high and the children in these schools need to be helped. We did research on different ways to help, and finally ended up with supplemental classes. Next we did research on different non-profit organizations and decided to try and help the Grace Opportunity Project, or the GO Project.

The GO Project is a small non-profit that started when a Grace Church School partitioner and a Grace parent saw the low quality of the public schools and how nice the private schools were. They decided to make a group that taught or tutored children enrolled a few local public on Saturdays. These were underprivileged students that were doing sub-average in sub-average schools. The GO Project in a donated classroom in Grace and a $3,000 grant. Today the GO Project uses classrooms in four local private schools and serves around 330 students on both Saturdays and for five weeks in the summer.
I think that the most part of the project was the site visit. There I saw a group a normal children who are spending half their Saturdays and 5 weeks of their summer trying to better their education. These kids were no different that any other kids, yet they were dedicated to doing better in their classes. And the fact that they perform better in their normal classes gives me a sense of extreme reward.

Now that YPI is over I still can continue to help these children. On Saturdays I can volunteer and help with the classes. Another way I can keep helping these kids is to intern with GO over the summer and teach the kids for 5 weeks during the summer. Finally yet another way to help out these children is to spread the word about them, the GO Project and try and get people to help.