This year I worked at an organization called neighbors together. It is a soup kitchen in Bronxville Brooklyn that feeds people who are in need of a quick meal. They serve breakfast lunch and dinner to anybody who comes in. I worked in many positions when I was there. I helped unload food from trucks and packages, I helped cook, and I helped serve. The people that came in were a pleasure to work with because they were all very kind and many of them very friendly. I look forward to working with them again.
This year in American History 11 my class did one of two tours. One of the two tours was taking kids who work with the Go Project on a walk around the area near the Grace Church School, where the Go Project holds their classes and activities during the weekends. The other tour of the two was an alumni tour for Friends alumni. This tour took place around the area near Friends instead of Grace Church. For both tours, students needed to map out their stops and organize a theme for their tour as a whole. Each tour was also restricted to one hour only. Therefore, students needed to strategize in order to be back to both schools on time. I chose to be a tour guide on one of the Go Project tours. We gathered at the Grace Church School at around noon and ate with the kids and introduced ourselves before leaving the Grace Church School on the tour. Then we toured for one hour some spots around Washington Square Park and returned to the school. The most interesting thing that I noticed was that the kids were interested in what we were showing them, they just needed some visual cues, maps or some verbal support to help them understand what we were teaching them. Overall, it was a great experience for me and I think the kids I worked with enjoyed it because it was different for them from a regular Go Project day when they would work as if they were at school.
Throughout the year, I volunteered with several of GrowNYC’s initiatives. I have been a regular employee at a farmers market stand, working Saturdays in Grand Army Plaza and short hours Wednesdays in Union Square. This job gave me the opportunity to learn about GrowNYC and volunteer with several programs that partner with greenmarkets, namely Wearable Collections and City Harvest. During the fall season at the market, I participated in “Greenmarket Rescue” by helping my own stand as well as others collect leftovers from the day and load the food onto a City Harvest truck. This food was in turn distributed to mobile markets throughout the five boroughs. I also volunteered several times in Bedstuy with these mobile markets that are set up in food insecure neighborhoods and provide free produce and nutritional education several times a month. During the spring, I became more involved with the Greenmarket clothing collection. Every Saturday I worked at the market, during and at the end of shifts I also helped the clothing drives that were set up to collect New Yorker’s used clothing. This work also involved loading textiles onto trucks to be shipped to sorting facilities as well as engaging participants and involving other farmers to advertise at their own stands. This volunteer work was through Wearable Collection’s partnership with Grow NYC, a company focused on reducing landfills and fundraising for charity that uses farmers markets as outlets.
My experience working at the Farmers Markets and volunteering with their service partners has been truly the most educational community service of my life. I have discovered local farmers markets as oases of environmental awareness and hubs of ethnic and racial diversity. Having grown up in one of the most active and well known cities in the world, exposure to any other environment typically include adjusting to a much different culture. I have found that this culture divide is largely informed by divisions between rural and urban communities, a schism that extends to colonial times and prior. With farmers commuting from rural New Jersey and Pennsylvania, high school and college students engaging in part time work (often from wealthier families), other students from less wealthy families attending community college, and ages that span from 16 to 60 years old, I have never been surrounded by such a variety of voices and backgrounds applied to service and service learning. This diversity extends from the workers to the participants of GrowNYC initiatives, from Park Slope parents to families living on food-stamps. Applying the nutrition information that I learn throughout the day, so engrained in the regular and likely wealthier customers, to educating families in food insecure areas so that access to healthy options transcends wealth barriers, has introduced me to the environment’s intersection with health, small businesses, and social inequality. I am so grateful for the anthropological learning that has come with customer service coupled with the validating community service experiences that GrowNYC has given me my senior year. I am certain that I will seek out work in farmers markets during college as they truly are unrivaled epicenters of geographical, racial, and ethnic diversity that embody the use of intersectionality to address social inequality.
This past summer and fall, I volunteered at the GO Project, where underprivileged children can have access to high quality education and resources. My responsibilities included helping the children focus and finish their projects. It was truly amazing to see the children who I helped teach improve by leaps and bounds over the course of my time there. Although it was very challenging, I was able to learn patience and collaborative skills from dealing with the children. I was also able to see education from an educators perspective which helped me understand how people learn. In addition, I learned about the great problem of educational inequity in New York and the US in general. I believe my experience was very positive overall, and I learned as much as the children in my class did.
I went to a few empty bowls events this year. At these events, I made and painted a few bowls for the organization. I really enjoyed the experience because unlike just donating money or you can see the good your work is doing. I also really like being able to use my artistic talents to help, it felt like a good outlet for creativity and philantropy. I like doing service with my friends and this was a great opportunity to do so.
For my reflection, I wanted to write about peer tutoring and my experience with it. I worked with an eighth grader who needed help with Latin, one of my favorite subjects. Like most other languages, Latin builds up on itself so you can never forget what you learned in middle school. It was very helpful for me and my success in AP Latin. So I could help him and help myself at the same time. I really developed a friendship with the kid I was tutoring, so it was nice seeing his growth and seeing how what I did affected him. It was great to be able to see the direct consequences of my service.
This past February, I was the commentator and announcer for the Student Faculty spirit game. It was an extremely invigorating experience, with the energy of the players and the crowd being very potent. I was able to give my point of view on the game, which was satisfying for me because I consider myself to be a pretty big basketball fan. When given the option to either play or announce, I elected to announce because although I love playing basketball, I saw an opportunity for my energy to uplift everyone in the gym and put smiles on people’s faces. I ultimately had a terrific time, just like I had predicted to and it is unfortunate that I will not be able to participate in another friends spirit event in the future
Over spring break, for the third year, I returned to Stepping Stones daycare after attending there during my nursery and Pre-K years to help with the children and tidy up around the building. When I was there I helped lay down cots which are plastic woven bed designed for smaller kids to sleep during nap time. I also swept dirty places in and out of the building as well as taking out garbage from each classroom. Along with those other takes, I brought the lunch from the kitchen to every classroom which sped up the lunch process to help nap time come sooner for kids. While being there I noticed the flow of everything throughout the building went met much faster and I felt like I was actually making an impact unlike other service opportunities I have participated in.
While at my old daycare, the experience was a very unique one because of the how annoying and obnoxious the kids seemed. Sometimes the teachers would lose patience very rapidly with the children and they would have to raise their voice or put them separate from their students. Also the students would snitch on other students for ANYTHING to get them in trouble. There would be points when I would think “wow these kids are very annoying” but then I noticed that I saw a little of my self in those kids because I was just like them when I was young and that they would think the same thing when they get older. It made me realize how much I have matured.
In early May, I attended a screening at school by the feminist club of the film The Mask We Live In. It was a truly eye opening and critical film to watch. It delved and really analyzed the idea of societal masculinity. I always considered myself a feminist but I don’t think I totally understood how rooted in society the idea of being tough or hard without emotions really was. Its engrained in myself as well, which was something that was difficult for me to grasp and the film led to very much introspection on my part. I really hope these types of discussions can continue not only in my life but at friends as well, even if I am not there to participate in it.
This past April, I volunteered at the Model UN booth at Around the World Day. Around the World Day is an annual event held by RAAD that raises awareness about different cultures from around the world. Students gather together to share their cultures and expose the Friends community to a variety of traditions, foods, etc. At the Model UN booth, I hoped to both raise awareness about the club, as well as the social, cultural, and political issues that it discusses on an international level. Around the World Day has always been a great experience for me and the Model UN team and I am glad that I got the chance to participate in this event.