I have been involved with Congregation Rodeph Sholom’s Shireinu services for several years. Shereinu translates to “our songs” and is a religious service tailored to be more accessible to people with disabilities and their families. It is very rewarding to see the positive effect that my work has, and to see how happy it makes people to be in a more accessible environment. I felt that this experience was especially meaningful to me, as my sister, Sadie, is on the autism spectrum. Seeing other families with young members with disabilities getting involved in the service brought me a lot of joy, as these kinds of services were not around when Sadie was their age.
My attitude toward my social issue has changed a little bit because I feel more educated and able to support my claims. I have been to an organization and have been able to see children who are affected by the failing public school system first hand. I already knew that my social issue was affecting kids all throughout New York City, but I never realized how serious this issue was. Without a proper education kids can’t succeed at life. When you think of a social issue my mind goes straight to homelessness,poverty and hunger. I knew this issue was bad, but I have finally realized that this is something that needs to change rapidly because it can easily causes so many other social issue. I developed a few skills while being on this project. The most important skill was probably time management and preparation. In order to successfully do this project you have to make sure your group didn’t save everything to the last minute. Your group had to make sure all the expectations were met and on time because you had the possibility of giving your organization money that they needed and possibly affect the lives of other kids.This project was so rewarding because we got to educate people about education. Even though our group did not win we got to teach others about how important education is. It was so nice to meet an organization and help ,others by just telling other kids about the problems we see.I found that the most rewarding part of this experience was how grateful the organization was. They knew that there was no guarantee that our group would win the money, but the people in the organization were really happy that we were even looking into this social issue. It was so nice to see that we could make a difference by just visiting City squash. I have plans for this summer, but in following years I would really love to volunteer and help kids learn. I couldn’t help with squash but I could help tutor other kids. We receive such a great education at Friends and I want to help others get at least half of the information I have gotten at our school.
This year I was on the leadership team for the organization of Day of Concern. I orginally thought that it was just the school trying to tackle just race and diversity within Friends Seminary. That is until the first meeting that the group of student leaders had. I realized then that Day of Concern was about informing people about certain issues and problems in the society that we live in. Though, I didn’t know any speakers that could come to Day of Concern, just the fact that Day of Concern included issues that students felt were important in our society made the day worth organizing and attending.
I personally attended the workshops about identity, race and the police, and also about fracking. I enjoyed all three workshops and felt like I was learning something new and being more aware of the problem. The diversity of the workshops and the choosing power given to students, in my opinion, made Day of Concern really amazing. That along with the fact that the speakers were awesome.
My group looked at lack of early education in NYC. You never really think about how many people can’t afford or get education because of how privileged we are. We go to a great school and learn from great teachers, but how would our lives be if we couldn’t go to school? Finding the Bloomingdale Family Program wasn’t very hard because we had a connection with them. We tried to look at any other possibility, but in the end, we knew that the Bloomingdale Family Program was right. When we went to there site, we got to see the classrooms and some of the children. From just seeing the place, you couldn’t guess that it was any different from the next school. The classrooms were well organized and all of the kids’ pictures contained smiling kids. I always knew that getting early education was an issue; however, I now put more thought into it. A skill that I developed during this project was making and presenting a presentation. I hope that I will be able to continue helping the program and perhaps even go to one of their alumni events that they have every year.
Before when I used to pass a homeless person on the street I would only think of the terrible smell or be scared that they would do something to me. However, after this project I do not just see homeless people as “bums” but as the people they are. After studying how drugs and mental illness can affect your life my sympathy for homeless people has increased. Many homeless people were not ultimately the cause of their homelessness and have no one to turn to. This project for me has humanized the homeless. Over the course of this project I ultimately learned effective ways of research. It also allowed me to develop my interviewing skills. Finding a non-profit however, was a difficult aspect of the project. It was very hard to find places that helped the specific social issue we had. The non-profit however, ended up shaping our social issue. I think that acquiring an understanding for a problem that many New Yorkers have was extremely rewarding and hopefully in the near future I will have the pleasure of volunteering at BRC.
The past few days, I helped Geny Kimbrell make packets to hand out to rising juniors for their college trip this summer. The work was pretty tedious since I had to photo copy sheets for 10 different schools and make twenty copies of each packet. I also had to correct the mistakes I made or I had to cross out unhelpful information. While the service itself was not very enlightening, I learned to really appreciate what Geny does for us.
Having gone through the process this year, I know that Justin and Audrey do a lot for the seniors and juniors but they are in the foreground. It is easy to see the work they put in to help us, though I am sure most of their work is behind the scenes. Geny does not have as much physical presence but she really does a lot for the seniors and I really appreciate all the work she does just to make our lives a little easier.
Last Summer I went on a service trip to Alaska. I stayed in a very small Athabaskan community of less than 100 people, which was located about five hours from Fairbanks. The trip was very fun, and it was very interesting to see how a culture with almost no access to American pop culture functioned. I spent a lot of time with the inhabitants of the community, and was honored to be a part of many of their traditions. It was also enjoyable to hunt and fish with the elder members of the village, their only source of food being what they can hunt or grow themselves. Constructing a 15′ x 25′ outdoor cooking facility was a rewarding experience, and I enjoyed doing many different parts of the construction. My time in Alaska has affected the way I view many aspects of living in such a different place (New York City).
This year for service day, my grade went to Staten Island to do some mulching on the greenbelt conservatory. It was a rather underwhelming trip. It took a few hours to arrive, and a few hours to return to the school, which meant most of our service day was spent traveling. The ferry we took to Staten Island was nice, as it gave us a chance to be on a boat in the sun with fresh air. The lecture given about the history of the greenbelt conservatory was interesting, and provided information about the park. The hike in the conservatory was probably the best part of the day, because it gave us a chance to see the lush forest of the greenbelt conservatory. The time we spent doing actual service was about 30 minutes, which is a comically small amount of time for a day dedicated to service. We mulched the area outside of the main building, and raked away any undesirable plants. All in all, it was an alright service day, but it could have been more properly planned. A closer location would have most likely left us more time to do actual service, which is the goal of service day.
On the weekend of May 13, I had the pleasure of volunteering to help out with the Alumni reunion. I was able to meet many different alums who told me some great stories about their time at this school. It was interesting to hear how much the school has changed over the years and great to see alums reactions when I would tell them about a new feature of the school. I was not sure what to expect when I signed up for this, the Alumni Reunion proved to be and enriching experience and I was able to meet some pretty great and interesting people.
Over spring break I traveled with the school to Nepal. Working with buildOn, an organization that builds schools in villages throughout the world with a history of no adequate school structure. So after flying to Nepal and spending our first day touring Kathmandu, we flew to the village. The first day in the village was slightly overwhelming since we were honored with a four hour long welcoming ceremony. We met our host families after the ceremony and spent that first night getting to know them. For the next four days we worked in shifts, building the school or learning from the villagers. I was blown away with the kindness the villagers showed, especially my host family, and how rewarding that relationship was even with the language barrier.