Over the past few months, I and the rest of the 9th grade have been working on a service learning project in History funded by the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative, an organization which donates over one million dollars to nonprofit organizations every year. The grade was split into teams of four to six students, and each team chose a social issue and an organization to represent. After the finalists presented on Service Day, the winning team received a $5,000 grant from YPI to give to their organization. Although my team did not win, I still learned a lot about my social issue and how it affects the NYC community.
My team chose inaccessibility to early education as our social issue, and our organization was the Bloomingdale Family Program, whose mission is “to serve preschool children from low-income families in upper Manhattan.” We visited the school and got the chance to speak with José Velilla, Executive Director, and Marilyn Barnwell, Education Director, who told us about the school’s values. They believe that early education can really give poor children a chance to break out of the poverty cycle, and that it opens up a lifelong curiosity for learning.
One aspect of our issue that really struck me was that in many cases, access to quality early education in New York City can be determined simply by where you live. If you live in a poor neighborhood, you do not have as good of a chance to get a good education and be successful in life. Instead, you will stay in poverty, and your children will continue to live in poverty, and their children will stay in poverty. It is a never-ending cycle. Before the project, early education did not seem as important as some other social issues, such as hunger or homelessness, that have a more immediate effect on people; however, the Bloomingdale Family and the YPI project made me realize the importance a quality early education can have on people’s lives.