Last week I cooked dinner for the friends shelter. With the help of my mom I went to the store and got all of the ingredients for lasagna, salad (both for dinner) muffins (for breakfast) and some cookies for desert. After this we went home and took a couple hours to prepare the meal. We packed up the food in containers and put in some utensils and brought it to the shelter. When we got there the volunteers were finishing setting up and their faces lit up when they saw all the food. They were so thankful and it felt so great to make a difference in someone’s life; even if it were supplying them with one dinner on one night. The next day I got an email from the head of the friends shelter saying thanks and that the guests loved the food. She said that at night they “started to sing because of how happy they were about the food” and “in the morning they were still humming and singing.” I can’t really describe with words how this made me feel to know that I helped people feel this way, but I plan on doing this again and helping more people find this happiness however I can.
This year, I danced for the fourth time in the annual Friends Seminary Dancer’s Responding to AIDS concert. Being able to dance this final time as a high school senior, performing a solo I choreographed in tribute to my late grandmother Carmen, was extraordinarily rewarding and special. I have loved dance ever since being a part of a gymnastics team and competing at a high level throughout middle school, and having the opportunity to continue to take the dance I had learned as a gymnast and perform for my peers and teachers always meant so much to me. This year, being involved in fund-raising for this amazing cause once again and doing so through one of my passions, dance, was an incredible experience. Being able to express my love and appreciation for my grandmother through my dance while at the same time contributing to such an important cause made this service experience the most rewarding and meaningful for me to date. I will miss being a part of this incredible concert in the years to come after my graduation, but I know that I will be back to visit and watch my peers continue this incredible Friends Seminary service tradition.
The tenth grade participated in a chemistry project that dealt with the Flint Water Crisis. We were given many assignments and had to research different facts, terms, and general knowledge. We researched what the exact problem in Flint was, we also learned what lead is, and other important facts. We also did in class labs that further informed us of the different ways that chemicals react together. These labs later helped us in our final project. for our final project we were paired up in groups and assigned a topic about lead in water. My group was assigned the “Health Effects of Lead” topic. My group researched, on various medical websites, what lead does, in the short and long term, to your body. Once we completed the research we began to make a poster board for our presentation to the eighth graders. Our board was made up of information, statistics, and interactive sections. We really tried to stress how dangerous lead is to your body. We also had to complete a final individual project concerning lead. I chose the Water Contamination Lab. In this lab, I was given approximately 250 mL of dirty water taken from a river behind a fertilizer factory. I was then given three different chemical compounds and told to make to water as clean as possible. I completed the lab, but it was difficult because the lab was unguided. All in all this was a wonderful project to work on and very informative.
This year, the tenth grade did many labs and projects related to the chemistry behind the Flint, Michigan water crisis. We learned how the lead reacts to chlorine in the drinking water and breaks off of the pipes carrying this water. To finish the project, we learned about testing water for lead by using a chemical, sodium rhodizonate. We found that if the water tested turned pink, it was contaminated with lead higher than the EPA’s limit of 15 parts per billion. We found that some cities in the United States carry drinking water well over this limit. As part of the final project, some of the tenth grade, myself included, wrote a letter to a government official of our choosing addressing this issue and all that it affects. I wrote to the mayor of Newark, NJ addressing lead contaminated drinking water found in public schools. Behavioral and physical health effects related to the lead contamination have been found in children drinking water at these schools. Although the water fountains at the schools have been shut down, the damage has already been done. In exploring the cases throughout the United States such as in Flint and Newark and in many other cities, I discovered that this is an issue going far beyond simple mistakes or neglect to test the water. There is a strong correlation between the issue and the wealth of towns and cities it was found in. Poorer towns and cities tended to have lead contamination of water. This is partly due to the inadequate funding given to the town or city. Despite this, the government officials of many towns and cities took far too long to react to the issue and treated it as a far less important issue than it is. Many people do not know enough about the issue and the extent of its importance, myself including before I had done this project. I intend to spread this struggle to others so that they too can be educated on its importance. Hopefully government officials will eventually help the issue as much as they are able to prevent further lead contamination cases.
Throughout the course of this year, I worked with pediatrician Alan Shapiro at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in the South Bronx. Alan does great work with underprivileged children who suffer from various illnesses. Many of his patients have asthma and breathing issues due to living in tiny, cramped apartments with inadequate cleaning maintenance and ventilation. Alan not only works as a doctor for these children, but he often develops personal relationships with them and their families, becoming a father figure to some or an older brother to others. Alan is my neighbor and I have grown up around him, running to him when I got a cut or that horrible time I was stung between my toes by a bee. Alan is easily one of the greatest, most intelligent, and selfless people I know, and I feel honored to have gotten to work with him. Over the course of a couple months, I collected clothes from many different families I know, organizing a drive and sorting through and washing the clothes. After a couple months of collecting, my dad and I brought the clothes to Alan at the hospital in the South Bronx. I was able to meet a few patients while I was there and see pure joy cross a little girl called Cora’s face as she unfolded a barbie sweatshirt I had brought. To this day, I still receive letters and photos from the children and families who got some of the clothes and it warms my heart. I plan to continue collecting clothes for the children at this hospital this summer and next school year because it was a great experience.
For my service requirement I helped coach and ref younger kids playing soccer. I worked with the Manhattan Kickers Recreational League at the Con Edison fields. Helping these young soccer players was challenging and very eye opening. I remember all those years ago, being in their position. When I was their age I remember having a favorite coach who everyone loved. I tried to fill position for them and help them learn as much as they could. It was a great experience and I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did.
For my out of school service requirement, I helped out at my old synagogue West End Synagogue(http://westendsynagogue.org). What I did was for Purim and Yom Kippur, I set up decorations and tables with games and food on them. The games were meant to entertain little kids who were not old enough to attend the proper service. I liked setting up the decorations because I could be creative in making them. While it was a big commitment, the experience was still fulfilling to me. Helping the little kids be entertained was difficult but rewarding. After all, I was once their age and similarly bored by when I had to go, so it felt nice being able to make the experience more entertaining for them. Also, some of my other duties like making decorations and giving out food made the experience more enjoyable for everyone of all ages, Finally, I had not been to West End Synagogue in a long time, and so it the service was a good opportunity to reconnect with the place and people I had not seen for a long time.
The Friday before the Spring Fair, Elena and I were two of many who blew up balloons to make the balloon arch. Initially, I figured it would be an easy task but it proved to be quite difficult. When we first arrived, we were told to watch a video describing the complex process of making a balloon arch. This video utterly challenged my previously acquired knowledge of blowing up balloons. Instead of using our breath or helium to fill the balloons, we used a machine. I also learned about the existence of this contraption called a balloon sizer, which is basically a box used to ensure that all balloons were of the same diameter. The one sold by the company was about thirty dollars, so instead we were supplied with a piece of cardboard with a hole cut out to size the balloons. Despite these resources designed to aid the arch making process, there were still many challenges to overcome. First of all, there were a lot of people who were helping make the arch and only one air machine and balloon sizer to be shared. We also had to precisely follow the instructions of the video and had to make certain that the individual parts of the arch would all fit together which ended up not being as easy as i thought.
With so many people and so many balloons and only one machine, I expected chaos to ensue. However, after a few minutes, people of all ages were seamlessly working together to create this arch. There were many smaller groups all responsible for a different part of the arch, all using the same balloon blower to complete their tasks. I alternated using the blower to blow up balloons with people from other groups. Elena sized the balloons I blew up, lower schoolers tied these balloons, and others attached them to the rings to be connected to the arch. Although it was a bit hectic with so many people and so much to do, everyone’s enthusiastic attitudes towards each other made the process as efficient and enjoyable as possible. Through the preparation for the Spring Fair, the true spirit of Friends was revealed. Despite the hardships, Adults and children united and were able to create something colorful and beautiful. The Quaker values of Friends have supported me since Freshman year and helped me grow into the person I am today. It was the least I could do to help prepare for the Spring Fair, an event that would further bring the community together and foster an atmosphere of love and acceptance.
Victoria’s Service Reflection
In my 12 years as a Friends student and in the past four years in high school I have worked with many organizations all around NYC to not only fulfill the service requirement but to support issues that mean a lot to me. However, despite the countless hours I have spent cooking meals, picking up trash, teaching english, and planting flowers, this year was the first I helped in the Friends Shelter. Since I was in kindergarten I remember seeing the cots unfolded in the common room as we were leaving activities held in the evenings, but had little connection or knowledge to the shelter. Just this week, although knowing about it for 13 years, I volunteered for the first time to help the shelter by making dinner (a main-course, vegetable, and breakfast for 14 people). It took me over four hours to buy and cook the food and prepare it to be delivered to those staying the night at Friends. In the time I have been connected with friends, individuals have contributed in serving roughly 4745 meals, of which I have contributed one. Although I relish the hours I spent helping with other organizations, as I prepare to leave I see that I wish I had helped serve the organizations that are fundamental in our community. Given my history with the school as well as my home’s proximity to the school, I will most definitely cook another meal, but realizing the time lost has taught me that I should be looking around my immediate community first and foremost, as we don’t have to go far to lend a helping hand to someone in need.
This year for my out of school service, I volunteered at my dance school, the 92Y, as an assistant usher for dance shows. One of the benefits of being an usher is that I can see the performances being shown. It was a lot fun to see the different shows as it exposed me to different kinds of dance that I was curious to know more about or have never seen at all. This experience also brought me closer to my dance community; I discovered that Barry Blumenfield, the dance teacher at Friends, also teaches dance at the 92Y. I was also able to explore different aspects of my community, to see at as more than just a place where I take my classes. Seeing all the various ethnic forms of dance helped me to see it as a true cultural center. As an assistant usher I was also better able to understand some of the behind the scene work that goes into organizing an event.
These photos are from some of the shows I ushered and was able to see:
This was a show called The Laughing Stone, done by Sin Cha Hong, a dancer, choreographer, and vocalist from Korea. The dance was a kind of modern dance done at a slow tempo, almost like slow motion. I had never heard of this kind of dance before and thought it was relaxing to see the slowness of the movements in sync with slow tempo music. It was an interesting contrast in pace from the fast-paced movement dances I’m used to seeing and performing.
This was a show called Broadway Takes Two, done by a group of theater choreographers including Justin Boccitto (curator and director), Megan Doyle, Ryan Kasprzak, Jeff Shade, and Richard J. Hinds. The dance was a mix of theater dance with some tap dance and singing. I especially loved this show because this is one of my favorite kinds of dance and Megan Doyle and Heather Childs were performers in the show. Megan is the Director of the 92Y School of Dance and Heather is the Program Associate of the 92Y School of Dance. They are also both teachers at the 92Y School of Dance and I have known them for a few years. I was very excited to have the opportunity to see them perform.
This was a show called Tamashii no Hibiki (Soul Vibrations) done by the Keiko Fujii Dance Company from Japan with select dancers from New York. The dance was a type of modern dance with ballet with Taiko drumming. This was another kind of dance I had not deeply explored. I had started my study of dance at three with ballet but when I was seven, I started to take Tap and Jazz.