This summer I was an unpaid intern with Teach For America, and I worked in their National Office. This was the second summer that I worked there. I worked in the Admissions Department, specifically the selector impact team. They are in-charge of training the selectors, and then the selector choose the teachers. While working there, I took the selector training, became a trained selector (although I did not actually get to choose any teachers), did research on new technology that the team is going to use to create their training, and created and reorganized some of the slides used in the training.
My motivations for working with TFA have really changed over the past two years. I went into it with the goal of obtaining an internship and not much more. I new a little bit about education inequality, but it was not something that I though about often. After working there my views on the problem have completely changed. It is now something that I know a lot about and care passionatly about changing. Yes, I obtained the internship, but I gained a lot more than just community service hours. I learned all about a huge issue that our country has and the great ways that one organization is trying to fix it.
To look at TFAs website click http://www.teachforamerica.org/
Over the summer, I participated in a Soccer and Service program in Costa Rica. This was a trip organized by Globalworks, a company that offers different types of service trips to many parts of the world including Costa Rica, Spain, France, and Nepal. My group consisted of 10 kids and 2 leaders from various parts of the US.
Our trip started off in the city of Alajuela, where we practiced in a big soccer complex and played both with and against local teams.
After the first week was over, we travelled to a small city called La Lucha, where we did a homestay and where we did our service in a school called Escuela La Lucha. For 5 days, we mixed cement and dug up large rocks to build a concrete courtyard for the students to play sports, and painted a large mural of Costa Rica and its flag in a hallway. We also organized a small soccer tournament for the kids to play in where we each became a coach or a referee.
This was a great experience because we were able to help out a community by working hard and doing things that we love. It was very rewarding to watch the mural get finished, and watch the kids have a lot of fun playing soccer.
Costa Rica Soccer and Service: http://www.globalworkstravel.com/ssa/trips/costa-rica/costa-rica-language-immersion-2-week/
Over the summer, I volunteered at an organization called YAI. YAI is an organization of physical therapists, speech therapists, and social workers who help children and their families with different types of special needs. At my time at YAI, I was able to help make games for the children who go there for treatment, help with data entry, and help mail and prepare flyers with information for children’s families. I also had the chance to talk to a child having surgery who was upset, and I had to talk him through it in order to make him more comfortable and prepared.
Volunteering at YAI was a very rewarding experience because I got the chance to work with inspiring role models who devote their lives to helping others, as well as help children in anyway I could. My time at YAI opened my eyes to different types of people and their needs. Volunteering made me want to become a better person, and help other.
Over the Summer, I attended a camp called “Summerdance”. This dance camp is a part of my dance company, The Vanaver Caravan. During the first two weeks, the dancers work on various techniques of world dance, such as Percussion, Capoeira, and many more. The final week, however, the dancers go on tour to various venues in the area. Three of these venues were: Woodland Pond Retirement Home, The Ellenville Center for Spectrum Services (a school for special needs toddlers), and Camp Felix, a wilderness camp in upstate New York for inner-city kids.
Performing for all of these communities was incredibly rewarding. After each performance, we had the privelige of teaching simple dances to the audience. It was so exciting to see the faces of the kids, teenagers, and elderly light up with excitement at the prospect of learning a new dance form and get moving. Furthermore, through talking to our audience, I feel that I learned a lot about the what, specifically in our shows, worked and what lost their attention a bit. Although performing in and of itself feels so rewarding, thinking back on those few performances really makes the sometimes tedious rehearsals worth it.
This summer I was a counselor in training at an arts camp called Buck’s Rock in New Milford, CT. I have been going there for six years and felt it was my turn to contribute to the community I love so much. As a counselor in training I helped build sets for the plays being produced at camp. I also helped out in the “little sib” program, where we ease the transition for kids who were new to the camp. This involved writing letters to put on their beds when they arrived, calling/emailing them about the camp beforehand, and periodically checking in on them to make sure they were having a good time. I had three little sibs, and I was proud of watching them grow, enjoy camp, and participate in theater. The program was very similar to the big buddy program at friends, except my little sibs were as young as nine years old. I really enjoyed this summer and hope to eventually come back.
With the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, I helped out at a childrens’ camp which taught them the basics of Lee Strasberg’s method acting and also other basic skills vital to theatre. I helped the kids get to their classes and acted as a Teacher’s Assistant to the teachers who gave up their summer to teach at the Institute, despite being free of the usual NYU and Conservatory program students that flood the halls of LSTFI year-round. Lee Strasberg believed that there should be no “advanced” or “beginner” acting classes — instead, he thought that the old and the new should be in the same class together. The new students can look up to and learn from the older students while the older students can be reminded of the basic skills that they learned when they were a beginner. During the week I volunteered, I definitely was reminded of many things I had once learned when I was the age of the students (8-11), for my attendance in that very same program I helped out in was vital to the beginning of my acting “career.”
Seeing the children learn the beginnings of method theatre acting, singing, dancing, and acting for film at such a young age not only made me smile but also reminded me of who I once was and who I continue to be. Although I did volunteer this summer, I spent most of my summer in a 6-week theatre conservatory program at Carnegie Mellon University. While my time there was well worth it, very educational, and so fun, it was hard to see past the incredible competition that there is for aspiring actors nowadays. In many colleges, the odds of getting in for a musical theatre major are less than that of getting into a Broadway show. It is easy to lose hope when surrounded by kids just as talented or more talented than you are. However, seeing the children at LSTFI made me remember how hopeful and motivated I was when I was their age. I used to dance and sing for my parents every night because I wanted to be the main character in Broadway’s Wicked, and nothing could stop me from practicing constantly — not even the neighbors’ complaints. Seeing and helping the kids learn from great teachers made me remember that motivation, and not lose sight of a future that I may be able to have just because there are others who are also good at what I do. My experience was educational not only for the kids but also for myself, and although I am getting to the age where I will have to leave the Young Actors at Strasberg program, my experiences in the camp and helping out there will always be in my heart, and it will motivate me when I move on from high school.
Over the summer, I was a volunteer counselor at Camp Kulam. Camp Kulam is a two week day camp program at the JCC for kids with special needs ages 4-18. During my time at Kulam, I worked with the 8-12 year olds, and the 12-18 year olds. Prior to this experience, I had never worked with children with special needs, and I was quite nervous about the idea of working with kids who I (at the time) categorized as “different” than the children I had come accustomed to working with, through babysitting, and other child-related programs. The kids in the program all had some form of autism, but they differed greatly in their levels of functionality. Some kids were able to talk and play all day, and have conversations on a level that is similar to those of a typically developing child. While other children were completely non-verbal, and relied solely on hand gestures and incoherent noises as their form of communication. Whatever their level of functionality, each and every one of these kids added something unique and interesting to our group dynamic. While working at Kulam came with its fair share of challenges, especially in regards to communication with kids who have a hard time expressing their feelings, the experience that I had was overwhelmingly positive, which has led me to be an active participant in the JCC’s youth special needs programing throughout the year. I am so lucky to have been introduced to these amazing kids over the summer, some of whom I still see on a weekly basis through a similar program that I’m a part of. I had assumed that working with kids with special needs would be an interesting summer experience, but I can now say that the two weeks I spent as a counselor have persuaded me to continue working with kids with special needs throughout this year, and the years to come.
Over the summer I was an intern for a nonprofit called New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI). The organization’s mission is to use the expertise of top New York City law firms to solve major issue in the local area. Partnering with lawyers around the city who offer their time on a pro bono basis, NYLPI works in three main areas, health justice, environmental justice, and disability justice. In recent years, NYLPI has successfully sued the EPA over it failure to remove toxic chemicals from public schools, started campaigns to solve issues of toxic waste dumping, and worked on behalf of clients with disabilities who have been neglected for maligned.
As an intern, I was helped research for different campaigns and lawsuits, work with the development staff on fundraisers, and participate in office and board policy meetings. As the only high school intern, instead of law school or undergraduate, I also had the opportunity to participate in events designed for other interns that included discussions with lawyers from different areas of the legal world. It was immensely gratifying to witness some of the work that people spend their lives doing. It was also interesting to work with lawyers from major law firms who had volunteered their time to help those less fortunate. I was able to learn a great deal on how the organization is run, from the meetings, fundraising, office culture, and the small and oftentimes mundane tasks that go into the workings of an organization.
This summer I helped out at my 8-year-old sister’s ballet camp. Since I go to the ballet school during the school year, the teacher knows me and trusts me with teaching anybody who needed help. Some kids I had to help with their choreography. One wanted to be a swan playing tag, but she didn’t know what to do. I helped her create moves. Another said that his mom had told him to bow while bending his knees (which is a curtesy). I had to convince him that he shouldn’t do that. The boy also insisted that he was always right, and he became violent at times. It was definitely a learning and character building experience to make him stop. Although I eventually succeeded, I now sympathize with teachers a lot more.
It was extremely gratifying to be able to see that I had made a difference. I’ve always liked little kids because they are so cute, and it was very fun to to teach them. I was also assigned a group to watch during field trips. My two kids decided that we were the “strawberry pineapple chocolate whipped-creams” and declared me as their leader. They would ask to hold my hands and we would make up the best desserts possible with our 4 foods. To see that I had done something that made others so happy made me happy. It was an extremely fun and interesting experience.
Over the summer, I volunteered with Lenox Hill Hospital on the Upper East Side. I was part of a high school summer program. I worked on the Intensive Care Unit visiting with patients throughout the floor. I was able to interact with patients and their families and help when they needed a hand or an errand. Not only was I able to help with patients, but I also got to help out with the organization of the unit. In the mornings, I would restock the floors with gloves and gowns and help the clerk on the unit. Through this experience, I was exposed to how a hospital worked and the endless professions within it. I enjoyed this experience because of the relationships I was able to build with not only the patients, but with the nurses and the other people that make up a hospital.