This spring I am working my second term at gallopnyc, a non-profit therapeutic horsemanship organization. I attend sessions each Sunday from around 12-5 and assist physical therapists with hippo therapy exercises, as well as care for the horses and work with kids and their parents. I feel lucky to have found an organization to which my skill set is applicable and I’m thankful for the relationships I’ve made since last year through Gallop. I look forward to continuing with the group next year and intend to find a similar gig in college.
For our most recent project, my graphic design class teamed up with the printmaking class to create prints and posters. Each group of about three students was instructed to choose a social issue, and make two prints. My group, which consisted of Chi Osse, Amanda Liebman, and myself decided to choose Free Tibet and self-immolation as our issue. We first made the designs on Adobe Illustrator. While the designs were printed, we transferred them into Blender, a 3D designing program, and printed 3D plates out of the printers in Studio 5. We then brought the plates to the other art room and made manual prints with different colors, papers, and other materials. We believe self-immolation and the Tibetan independence movements are very important issues, and realized this project was a great way to address and raise awareness for the issues. Our designs and plates are currently in a case on the main stairs between the third and fourth floors, and the prints are all around the school. We hope you will check out the art we made for this project.
Earlier this month, through the organization Earth Matter I was able to help with planting and animal care on Governors Island. When I arrived we began by sewing rows in order to plant vegetables and other produce of that sort. Throughout most of the day I was working with farming and helping plant seeds. When I was there I also saw a large amount of compost on the island, this is because it is the home of much of the city’s compost, they even mentioned receiving some of the compost which Friends produces. Overall the experience was interesting as I had never really imagined things happening on Governor’s Island but it was eye opening to see that much of the island was used for things like compost and houses for chickens. I enjoyed my experience with Earth Matter and learned a lot.
This year, I assisted in calling and writing notes to Friends Seminary alumni in regards to donating to this year’s Annual Fund. Of course,
receiving a donation from someone you had recently called felt rewarding since it gave me a chance to give back to the community which gives me access to my community which offers me an education, is open to my many complaints, and allows me to perform in a professional setting. However, the most interesting part of this seemingly-awkward task to me was hearing what Friends Seminary alumni were doing today.
After dialing the first number, I was greeted by a friendly voice regarding his law office which I realized was a voicemail mid-response. After the beep and an awkward voicemail, I proceeded to consider this man’s life. At one point or another, he lived day to day under the same roof, taking the same classes, with some of the same teachers I am now. After dialing more numbers, I realized that all of these people had once led extremely similar lives yet somehow spread to all different jobs of the world.
While calling and writing to more alumni, I kept bringing my attention to the fact that they were once Friends students like me and that one day a future student could be calling me. Hearing the questions alumni had about Friends today led me to wonder how Friends will evolve in the future. How would the life of that future Friends Seminary student; a most-likely stressed, tired, determined, and service-credit-needing (and service enjoying) person be different from the one I lead today. If they’re having a bad day, will their go-to place be the new art piece Friends is planning on displaying. I look forward to hearing about the future of Friends and thinking back to this service experience.
Many of my friends, when I told them I was going to South Africa, had responses that varied somewhat along the lines of “Oh, another white girl going to South Africa to ‘help’ the children.” Although this was in jest, “voluntourism” experiences like that happen all the time. However, this trip was not voluntourism and every member of it consciously made sure of that. The goals of the trip were to learn about the effects of apartheid and the history of South Africa, as well as sustainable development and responsible tourism. Additionally, my personal goals for the trip were to get out of my comfort zone and do my best to remain mindful. I definitely did these things in my time in South Africa. I can’t possibly choose between all of my meaningful experiences there without writing a short novel, so I will just write about one.
One of the most rewarding and most difficult experiences was our outreach work with the church in a township in Port Elizabeth. We were split up into groups and each group walked out to a site to bring food supplies and offer prayer in the form of song to a sick member of the community. My group went to the house of an important man in the church who became too sick to attend services. Everyone crowded into his small home and sang beautiful, melodic songs that moved the man (and everyone in the room) deeply. Essentially, the service was brought to him.I really saw how strong the community was and how they were able to lift each other up. Next, all the groups met up and we all went into an elderly sick woman’s home. I didn’t think we would all fit (there were probably over a hundred people) but the home was packed to the gills and surrounded by people. I was very close to the sick woman, at the center and I saw how she was moved to tears by the singing. I shook her hand before leaving (as we all did) and I really saw how the community treated everyone as equals and how everyone cared so heavily for each other. I am not a religious person and the situation was very difficult due to how intense it was, but I found it so beautiful. Learning to live with one’s own discomfort is the key to escaping one’s comfort zone and, for me, it allowed me to grow as a person.
There’s really no way for me to encapsulate how much this trip meant to me, except to say that it was life changing. That is not an overstatement, as it deeply affected how I view social justice, politics, racial issues, sustainable development, and privilege. I am so thankful for the experience.
We headed up to Norrie State Park on Friday to set up camp and get out on the water in our kayaks, as well as play some games as a group. Saturday morning was somewhat of waiting game due to the rain but spirits stayed high and we got to explore a beautiful tributary of the Hudson River. By Sunday, after one last paddle, it was time to pack up camp and head back to NYC. Throughout the trip there were games and great conversation, which lead to a strong group dynamic both among the students and among the students and instructor team. My favorite part was watching this group development. I really enjoyed the trip; it was great to get out and paddle on the Hudson, and getting to a do so as a student leader was especially rewarding. The most surprising aspect of being a leader was how important it is to have backups in whatever plans one makes, because it’s difficult to predict how quickly people will move through an activity. Giles and I should have planned more games because the 10th graders moved through them very quickly, although it did end up working out. I used a variety of leadership styles throughout the trip, from being more authoritative to letting the students figure out the best way to do something for themselves. My favorite moments were not when me or Giles told the 10th graders what to do, but when they helped each other and learned from one another. This type of peer leadership is the kind that, I believe, leads to the most growth. However, in moments when time is of the essence or there are very specific instructions, it was better to be authoritarian (although it is definitely in my leadership philosophy to keep it to a minimum). For instance, on the night hike, it was better to give the students specific instructions instead of let them figure out what to do on their own, since it allowed to the group to enjoy the activity. I think one of my strengths as a leader was simply being aware of the limits of my own expertise and knowing that it is okay for students and instructors to figure things out together. Also, I think I did a good job of understanding that an activity that is easy for me might be difficult for someone else, recognizing those moments, and helping accordingly without being condescending. In the future, I could be more thorough in planning and also more assertive in times when I needed to give instructions. Overall, I wouldn’t have changed anything about my leadership on the trip or about the trip in general (even the rain!). I felt very well prepared and it was great to test out my leadership skills.
On May 14th I worked at the Spring Fair for Jack And Jill. At this event, I began my day by working at the games booth, in which I was responsible with running the skee ball, ring toss, basket ball, and Down the Clown games. I also made sure to help the kids as they played the games and to give them tickets after playing which they could redeem for prizes. At this booth I got to do very fulfilling work by helping out the kids and making sure they were having fun. Next I worked at the spin art booth, at which I not only ran the spin art machine itself, but also set the pictures that the kids made into frames. My final responsibility for the day was working at the snow cone booth, which mainly involved adding ice to the snow cone machine and serving the snow cones. Overall, I enjoyed volunteering my time to help out the Jack and Jill community.
Over the course of this year I have volunteered with the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association (SPNA) to help garden in the park next to school. I helped plant flower bulbs before winter, rake leaves in th spring and spread mulch to help the soil. I got to meet a lot of people in the neighborhood who also wanted to help and I enjoyed gardening with groups of highschoolers from other schools or programs. Now when I walk through the park seeing all the green and the flowers I can actually see what I worked for and what I planted. SPNA has gardening events every other Saturday. They are quite fun and I encourage anyone in need of service or who wants to help garden to try. For any information you can contact SPNA at email@example.com.
This September, I participated in a chalk walk against catcalling. We wrote messages in chalk along the sidewalk near school, and made our way towards Union Square. We wrote things like “My name is not Hey Baby” and “I deserve to feel safe on the streets.” As we filled up the sidewalk with colorful messages, people would stop and ask us questions, or take pictures. Occasionally, someone would tell us their experience with catcalling and thank us for what we were doing. It was so inspiring to be a part of the chalk walk, because I truly felt like I was making a difference. Even though one message may seem like it makes no difference, something small can inspire many conversation that leads to change. I thought that the chalk walk was super successful, and I would love to organize a couple next year or maybe take part in one outside of school.
On May 13th, I volunteered with Empty Bowls through working at their table selling the bowls that had been made this year. Empty Bowls is an organization that helps to fight against hunger through donation and service, while also informing people about the issues that cause hunger in our society and how we can fight against them. On this particular day the bowls that had been made by volunteers throughout the year were being sold in order to raise money to be used to combat hunger. Earlier in the day a part of this event was a deal in which people who purchased bowls would also receive ice cream, and when I began we had moved the table inside and began to sell the bowls by themselves. In working with and learning about Empty Bowls, I am more informed with the struggles that accompany hunger.