During last summer I interned with the GO Project in their GO Getters Program. For five weeks student volunteers worked with experienced teachers and teaching assistants in K-8 classrooms. These students were incredibly bright but had fallen behind during the school year because of a lack of resources, family issue etc. Our job was to provide an experience that would supplement what they were learning in school and also to provide a unique experience using the many resources available at Grace Church (and Avenues). As a morning volunteer, my job was to help students in an academic class. I worked with a science teacher on an environmental science course, discussing and doing activities on issues such as renewable energy, fracking, and composting. We worked with students individually when they required specialized help but also made sure in include group activities into the curriculum. This emphasis on group activity fostered a great sense of community among the students and helped volunteers learn their interests, strengths, and weaknesses in the classroom. The year culminated in a lab report on a composting project. The students created poster boards discussing their projects and presented to students in all middle school classes on the final presentation day.
Volunteers attended daily professional development sessions to discuss issues of social justice related to educational equity. We touched on issues such as the intersection between race, economic status, and educational development, public funding for struggling students, and the use of standardized testing as a measure of intelligence. The student volunteers hailed from many different backgrounds; all were New Yorkers, but every student had a unique story. These PD sessions gave me the opportunity to talk with students who had stories that are rare to encounter at Friends. Some of their schools emphasized diversity similarly to Friends; others did not. Getting some insight into how these less diverse student bodies conducted themselves (as well as some more diverse student bodies) made me realize the importance of diversity at any school and on any campus. Diversity of background (race, socio-economic class etc.) led to the most important type of diversity in any educational setting: diversity of ideas. Having people from so many different backgrounds led to some very unique debates that are impossible to have without a diverse student body. Agree with every students’ opinion or not, exposure to different types of people is important in developing an objective and inclusive view of issues that affect all of us. I hope that every student explores opportunities to exit their bubbles of privilege the same way that I did this summer, and I hope that students at Friends and Friends alumni push for greater diversity wherever they are.