Tsejin’s Summer Experience

Over the summer I volunteered at my Tibetan school’s summer camp program. During that time, I was able to help teach young Tibetan students on Tibet’s rich culture and language.
One of the best things I was able to do while volunteering was to help teach the younger campers how to sing and dance a Tibetan zodiac dance. Not only did they perform the dance superbly, but they also learned how to say the 12 zodiac animals and what each animal does in Tibetan. I was able to play the music for this dance, and I’m still amazed by how quickly these campers learned the song and dance.
I was able to not only learn how to play the “piwang”, or better known as the Chinese “erhu”, but to also play the piwang for a final summer camp group song. Lastly I helped create (fake) instruments for the older campers’ dances, and Tibetan masks for the Lhamo (Tibetan opera). During this time, I was able to learn about the history of Tibetan arts, and how it has changed over time.
I was so thrilled to still be a part of my old summer camp, and to be able to learn more about my heritage while helping to teach others as well.

Kyra’s Summer Service Reflection

Over the summer I went on a sailing and community service trip in the Caribbean. One community service activity that we completed was cleaning trash from the mangroves of Hodges Creek Marina on Tortola. We used kayaks and paddled into the mangroves and were able to pull out trash that would kill the mangroves. We were able to find fenders, tires, and even a dinghy.

We also did community service on the small island of Saba in the Leeward Islands. On Saba, we cleared trails for hikers and removed rocks and cacti.

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Costa Rica – La Carpio & Playa Flamingo

Over the 2014 summer I travelled to Costa Rica on a service, immersion, and recreational trip with 19 other kids my age. Along with attending Spanish Language classes to improve my Spanish, and flying through the zip lines of the rainforest, students engaged in two main community service projects.

The Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation was one organization we worked with. They are a non-profit organization dedicated to working with the most marginalized populations of Costa Rica. Our group entered one of the poorest towns in Costa Rica: La Carpio. La Carpio is a population mainly made up of refugees from Nicaragua who ran away from the brutal civil war going on there. Women who have children from multiple men often make their ways into Costa Rica’s La Carpio, and live lives that are better than what they had in Nicaragua, but as we observed, not nearly the quality of life that these good people deserve. Because of the economical situation in this Town, there is very little education, and this often leads to gangs who contaminate the town with graffiti and bad influences on children. We went into La Carpio and painted many houses and walls that were blanketed with graffiti. Often, the little children there were enthusiastic, and wanted to help. In addition, we read stories in Spanish to the children of La Carpio using a makeshift Library. This was all through the connections of the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation.

Flamingo beach is one of the most popular beaches in Costa Rica. The tourism and development in this area, however, has brought up economic and environmental challenges for the locals. We focused on a nice lady named Doña Carmen. She is a single mom with multiple children and grandchildren. She is very grateful that she has a job at a school across the street from her house as a custodian. However, because of the lack of available jobs, her sons can’t find any work, and she is supporting her entire family with her small salary. Something she has always wanted to do was to paint her house, but without the time and money she never got to it. Our group went and painted her house. This morally lifted her spirits and she was thrilled with the results. Along the way, there was a little local child named Josep. He had an old beat up soccer ball that he was playing with and enjoying. During our water breaks we would play with him and talk to him. We decided that he was very cute and it was very sad that he was using this ball – it was grey, the leather was all ripped off, and it was half flat. We went to the supermarket and gifted him with a new one. Although this was not technically part of the service, I fondly remember it and am glad that we could impact Josep’s life too – even if it was in a small way.

Eitan Darwish – Friends Student Class of 2017

Declan’s Summer Service in Alaska

Restoring a Trail in the Tongass N.F., Juneau, Alaska
Declan Smith
I, along with 11 other high schoolers, traveled to Juneau Alaska, where we helped the Juneau Ranger District restore a trail. The trail we were restoring was the trail to the Windfall Lake Cabin. This cabin is the most popular cabin in the Tongass so the trail sees lots of traffic, which leads to the erosion and widening of the trail. Our job was to clear underbrush off of the trail, keep the trail to about 2 feet wide, and to clear muddy areas of the “organic”, muddy soil and fill in those areas with cobble and sand. To fix the muddy areas of the trail we would use McLoeds, which are like rakes combined with garden hoes, to clear the 3-4 inches of thick, muddy “organics”. At the same time people in an area called “the pit” would be collecting sand and stones. “The pit” was an area out of view of the trail where people would use pulaskis and shoves to gather the stones and sand. These materials were then brought to the newly cleared 2-foot wide trench and we would put down cobble, the stones, to help that section drain better, and then cover the stones with sand. To clear the trail of underbrush some of us got to use machete-like weed-whips to clear the edges of the trail of prickers, especially Devil’s Club, and other plants that were spilling onto the trail. We would also use a hand-saw to saw off low hanging tree branches that bikers could run into. By the end of our time working we had cleared the mud for 1/5 of a mile of trail and had “weed-whipped” 2 miles of trail.
Since all of our work was concentrated on a part of the trail that was on a small island created by two rivers we would camp at the tip of the river by night. We had 5 tents, 3 for the girls and 2 for the guys, and we packed in all the food we wanted and cook it all on little camping stoves on the beach. And since Juneau is very far north we would enjoy nights that stayed light until around 2 A.M. hanging out and playing cards. All in all the trip was a great way to earn community service hours.

Summer Service

This summer in the beginning of June, I helped out with the head start program in China Town. I helped in a classroom and played with kids for three hours each day for two weeks. The kids and I played in the block area or the drawing table for a few hours and then went out and played in the park for an hour each day. I worked with kids in the 4-5 age range and I felt like I made a big impression on them. I befriended a few kids and felt like they really looked up to me. This is the first time that I thought I needed to set an example for someone and I felt really close to the kids when we were playing in the playground or working on a drawing together.

Being in China Town, there was a lot of ethnic diversity in the program which had kids from Chinese backgrounds to kids with Hispanic background. Despite the ethnic differences, I felt really connected to these kids and the larger China Town community. I was a part of a community helping to care for young kids, and I felt like I was making a difference to these children. While participating at this service opportunity, I met a lot of people who really cared for their community and valued stewardship. I crossed paths with two other young person volunteers and thought that they both truly cared for the children that were at the program that they volunteered for, much like I did. This is how I saw that “Light is present in us all” and I truly respected the other volunteers and employees in the head start program. The children’s faces lit up every time a volunteer entred the room and their great attitudes and personalities made every day I went down to china town a treat.

River Restoration and Student Climate and Conservation Congress (Sc3)


This June, I attended the Student Climate and Conservation Congress (Sc3) for a second year in a row. Sc3 is a six day conference at the National Conservation Training Center in Sheperdstown, West Virginia. It focuses on teaching high school students about different environmental issues that we may not have been aware of, and helping us think of ways that we can be active in our communities. Even more students showed up this year compared to last year (there were about 140!) The students were again from all over the country, and a few were international. Sc3 is run by the Green Schools Alliance (GSA), a worldwide network of schools that try to be environmentally friendly and active. Friends NYC is part of the GSA, and we participate in some of their environmental challenges each year.
There were again many conservationist speakers this year, and we got to listen to a few people each day. Among the speakers was Pete Dominick, a comedian and talk show host on Sirus XM radio returned for the week, and broadcasted his show each morning from the National Conservation Training Center. We also got to listen to the author of “Energy,” Tom Butler, Historian Doug Brinkley, author of “Environmental Debt” Amy Larkin, and creator of the NYC truck farm, Ian Cheney. Each of these speakers had a unique interest in conservation, and their presentations were interactive and kept us involved throughout. Ian Cheney showed a short movie about how he took a pickup truck and grew a garden in the back, while he drove around NYC selling his produce to local restaurants. I thought this movie showed how localized food products can be distributed in a city as big as New York, which was very powerful.
We also took a kayaking trip down the Potomac River, which was a great community building experience, and we even had a moment of silence while on the river, and I thought that was a really great reflection of the Quaker value that I am so used to at Friends. I had the opportunity to be a part of a TV broadcast/workshop with Pete Dominick and a NASA Scientist, who studies plant photosynthesis from satellites looking down on Earth.
Throughout the conference, we toured around different discussion groups, where we spent time talking about an issue before presenting on it in front of the conference. I chose the Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle group. We watched some of the movie “Bag It” and talked about ways to educate people on how to recycle different number plastics. On the last day, we did a recycling skit for our presentation, which was really fun.
For the second year in a row, one of my favorite parts about going to Sc3 was the extensive network of people whom I met. There were plenty of new students and the conference, and some old friends that returned. While there were kids from Miami to San Francisco, I was able to connect with some peers from schools around NYC, and we are hoping we can meet this year to talk about environmental issues at our schools. I became a GSA intern while at the conference, so I will be blogging at greenschoolsalliance.wordpress.com throughout the year, with around 30 other interns. I also got to talk more to Peg Watson, the President of the Green Schools Alliance, and I hope she will be able to speak at Friends sometime this year. I had another great week at Sc3, and I am excited at the possibility of returning next year.

Coraya’s Experience at the Climate March

On the 21st of September there was a climate march from 81st street and central park west to around the U.N. This march was to encourage the United Nations to make laws and regulations to stop climate change. More than 300,000 people attended the march, including several positions and celebrities. I attended with our school and some other school connected to the Religious Society of Friends.

Although it was tedious while it took several hours for our group to actually start marching, this allowed for the excitement to build. As we waited there was a moment of silence for two minutes, and everybody put their hands up, something almost reminiscent of Ferguson. There was a deafening roar, as the silence ended and continued all the way up the line of people until it reached us. We began our walk at about 2 pm, marching forward with our school’s banner. Eventually we opened up a large parachute, with the words “I love our earth” written on it and the image of an earth in a tree. We had a very large, inflated ball that looked like a globe which we put in the center of the parachute and bounced up and down. Several people we did not know came and helped us use the parachute. After several hours and several miles, I went home, though the march continued. It was amazing and inspiring to see so many people together for one cause.


Jack’s Summer with Go Project

This summer, I interned with an organization called the Go Project. Go Project works mostly with under resourced children from schools in lower Manhattan who face learning challenges and need more help and attention. Go Project takes place on Saturdays throughout the school year, but during the summer there is a one month school, in which the children have three hours of academics and three hours of extracurriculars. During the summer portion of Go Project, fittingly named Go Summer, around 70 interns are hired. What made working with this organization so special, is what the internship required. As an intern, we were required to attend professional development sessions. Each week, we would have a new topic. Topics included microaggression, tracking in schools, diversity and privilege, and a few others. For each topic, we would have required readings which we would then discuss in the professional development sessions. Because I was an intern for the enrichment classes, I would spend an hour at Grace Church in the professional development session, and then I would make my way over to Friends to help assist the class with my enrichment teacher. My enrichment class happened to be fencing, which was quite an experience because I had never picked up a fencing sword, which I now know is called an epee, in my life. At least for the first couple of weeks, I was learning and teaching fencing to the kids at the same time. The last thing the interns had to do was create a hustle project. Every intern combined their passion and their knowledge, and presented the project at the end of the internship. For my hustle project, I ended up teaching a class of 8th graders about the causes and effects of Islamophobia.

I always knew about the educational divides in our country, but I had no clue to what extent it was a problem. Go Project was eye-opening in this aspect. Through the readings and the professional development sessions, I really began to get a sense of how much of our educational problems stem from racial divides. The truth is, in most cases, the color of ones skin significantly affect their chances of going to good schools whether it be elementary school or college. One exercise we did in our professional development sessions really hit me. We were asked to compare all white and all black schools from 1964 when the Civil Rights Act was passed, with underfunded and overfunded schools from now. What we discovered is there are striking similarities between underfunded schools from now and all black schools from 1964, including the segregation of whites and minorities. I also found out that many of the private schools in New York City and around the country were created after the Civil Rights Act, to keep schools segregated. The reason I know Go Project was an amazing learning experience for me was because despite all theses glaring problems that I learned about our education system, I came out of the internship feeling for the first time like I could, individually, make a difference. This is always something I’ve struggled with because there are so many problems in the world and sometimes it feels like whatever effort you give to change it is futile. Two things really changed that view point for me this summer. The first was witnessing how much Go Project has done to change the landscape of education. Yes, they deal only with lower Manhattan, but that is still a sizable amount of people and the organization really has made strides. The second was my Islamophobia presentation. After my presentation, the teacher came up to me and told me the kids were actually discussing what I said. Considering I gave my presentation to restless 8th graders, it meant a lot to me to hear that the kids actually took in what I had said. I have no way of knowing whether the kids that I gave this lesson to truly took it to heart , but for the first time I felt like I had really made a difference.



Above: A picture of one of my fencing classes eating snack with their equipment on in the outer courtyard.

Jane Acierno’s Summer Service with the Friendship Circle

“Letting your life speak” means that actions are the best measure of you as a person. This summer I met children and young adults who let their lives speak.

In August I volunteered at a camp for autistic children called the Friendship Circle . The Friendship Circle is an organization that helps special needs children interact with volunteers through music, psychical activity, art, and more. We took two trips in the four day period to the Intrepid and a playroom called Funtasia. For most of these kids, life consists of twelve month programs with only a week or two of break. That is why the Friendship Circle is so important: it helps children who otherwise have very little time to play a chance to have fun.

I worked with a non-verbal 13-year-old named Willem. Willem has a hard time functioning on his own, so his caretaker worked with me at the camp. Together, with another girl named Julia, we helped Willem go around to all the camp activities. At first I questioned my work: since I had never worked with a child so far on the autism spectrum I wondered if anything I was doing was affecting him. However, by the third day he was able to recognize me, and by the final day he was giving me kisses and hugs to show his affection. Although he could not say that he appreciated me, I knew I was impacting his life for the better.

I have been volunteering at the Friendship Circle for over a year now, and I know many of the counselors there. Those who spend part of their summer doing service show that they are compassionate people. They “let their lives speak” for them in that they do not need these children to tell them that they are doing a good job, they just know that what they are doing is helping others. The children “let their lives speak” in that they never intend to harm anyone. Their smiles, hugs, and kisses speak for themselves.

The Mirror: Abigail’s Summer Service Reflection

This summer I had a volunteer internship with the organization Generation Citizen. Generation Citizen is a non-profit that works to teach civic engagement to underprivileged high school students. It designs semester or year-long civic courses that are run by volunteers called Democracy Coaches. Students are made aware of their powers in society in regards to the action-making process (lobbying, defending themselves legally, etc.). I worked as a development intern, researching donors for the cause.

Through my internship, I realized how hard it is to keep a non-profit afloat. As someone who focused on fundraising, I found that the team is always working to find new donors and new grant opportunities. It gave me perspective on how hard the people in charge of nonprofits work–they are always dealing with multiple things at a time. I also learned how nonprofits work with the local government to get their goals accomplished. Overall, I realized that there are multiple logistical challenges to running a nonprofit. It was inspiring to work with such driven individuals, and to learn how dedicated the students are, with many of them going beyond the parameters of the civics course and getting involved in local government.


Generation Citizen’s Website