This year, I spent five hours of my Sunday afternoon coaching underprivileged kids in Chinatown. This opportunity was presented to me through my former coach from when I was about 8 years old, showing how important it is to stay in contact with people you are close to. This was the type of connection that I was striving to have with my students. I am glad to say that through teaching I was able to achieve a connection beyond the soccer world with the children. At the start of the year, most of the kids came in without actually having much skill. Some kids were more advanced than others and so one of the challenges of coaching was trying to make the less skillful kids better while still helping the more advanced soccer players continue to improve. I can gladly say that now, at the end of the year, all the kids have improved. It has been great to watch and fun to help these kids gain a new skill that they can continue to improve upon in the future, with or without my help. Therefore, I loved the whole experience that I had working as a coach and am glad that I can do it next year as well.
This year, I aided Kristin Marchilena with a some of her Lower School music classes. I had hoped to gain experience with both children and music, and I was delighted by the both the creativity and merriness of the class. The children, despite being very rowdy very often, were respective of their teacher and myself. If they broke a rule, they were quick to rectify the problem when commented on. Often though, I felt as though I wasn’t too sure how I was helping. I felt as though I was simply playing and singing with them and not doing any work. Kristin explained to me that without me around, the classes were usually much crazier. She told me that the kids respected me and enjoyed playing with me; this realisation made me extremely happy and helped me realise that service doesn’t have to feel like work. Overall, I truly enjoyed working with Kristen and the kids. I hope to continue working with children in the future.
Over the past four years, I have worked extensively with the homeless shelter at the First Presbyterian Church on Fifth Avenue and 12th street. I have volunteered in a number of roles, from helping set up the beds before the night to organizing other youth volunteers. Last weekend, I volunteered for the last time as a high school student. The homeless shelter season just ended, so my job was to take stock of what the shelter had, and what it needs for the new season this fall. This meant taking out all of the beds, linens, and stock items. I wiped down all of the beds and pillows, and decided whether or not they needed to order new ones. In addition, I cleaned out the stock closet. My time volunteering with the First Presbyterian Church homeless shelter has been very rewarding. I have volunteered there even before high school, so volunteering with them comes very easy. I always have fun, and I look forward to volunteering there in the future.
Earlier in the year, some friends and I helped out at MulchFest. What we did was shovel a pile of mulch into wheelbarrows, and from there, we took to wheelbarrows to a grassy area and spread the mulch around. While I was shoveling the mulch, I heard various people on the good smell the mulch gave, and some people thanked us for doing the service. After 4 hours of work, I felt really good and accomplished.
This year I volunteered at the Food Bank pantry in Harlem. I was given a tour of the building and see where meals are served every day for families and individuals in need. I volunteered downstairs in the food pantry, where people could go and were given food to prepare at home. First the pantry was open to seniors, and then it was open to the public. People were given cards and a certain amount of points for each section of the pantry (proteins, vegetables, grains, etc.), depending on the amount of people in their family. They are then allowed to go through the pantry and spend the points on whatever items they wanted, and different items were worth different amounts of points. I was placed in the protein section with a couple other people, and I helped people get the food that they wanted and decide which items they wanted to spend their points on. Many of the people did not speak english, and I was also able to practice my Spanish speaking skills while assisting them. It was also very nice to see that many of the people were grateful after I helped them get their food. There was a very large amount of people that needed assistance, and as soon as I had helped one through the protein section, there were many others waiting. I also worked alongside people who regularly volunteer their time at this specific food pantry, and it was interesting to hear about why they volunteer at the Food Bank and why it is important to them.
I really enjoyed learning about Flint and sharing the knowledge that I gained from my research with 5th and 8th graders. The United States has a huge problem with lead. Lead poisoning is not only a Flint problem it is a problem every where. During this project I learned that lead poisoning has occurred in California, Baltimore, and even upstate New York. Most of the places that are affected by lead are poor communities that are filled with a minority population. This really upset me which is why it was very important that this fact was mentioned in the presentations to the middle schoolers. The more people that know about the severity of lead poisoning as well as the United States problem with neglecting our poor minority communities, the more we as a community, city, and even nation can focus our attention on fixing these problems.
Over the course of a few weeks, I helped put up and take down the Friends Seminary Art show, SPICES, at the Magnan Metz Gallery. The art pieces displayed were created by students, alumni, and parents from the Friends Seminary Quaker community because “S.P.I.C.E.S” derives from the Quaker values (Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Stewardship) that are the main core principles currently followed by Friends Seminary. When putting up the art, I, alongside other students and my advisor, Jesse Pasca, used hammers, drills, screws, and balancers to make sure the gallery looked very visually pleasing. When we had finished, it gave me great satisfaction to see the end result because we had worked both mentally and physically hard. It was also nice to see how talented the Friends community is as a whole and it was a great feeling to realize how many talented people I was/ am surrounded by. About two weeks passed and the show was ready to close. Jesse Pasca and I took down all the art pieces and wrapped them to give back to the artists or the art collectors. Because we did this on the night before school ended, it made me realize that all good things must come to an end.
This year, I volunteered at “Power Play” which is an organization aimed at involving girls in sports and building their sense of empowerment. For one of their events, a “Girl Power Day”, I made posters to build excitement and encourage positivity among the girls. Through finding inspirational quotes and role models for the posters I realized the lack of positivity around women and how important it is to have young girls see and become strong women in their lives.
I’m really passionate about building this self-worth among young girls, especially those in lower income communities where it can be hard to find empowering activities- which the organization targets.
This year I had the honor of being part of God’s Love We Deliver’s first Youth Internship Program. God’s Love We Deliver’s mission is provide food to those who have chronic diseases and are in a poor economic situation. God’s Love We Deliver has specialized nutritionists that create a healthy meal specialized for each patient and the condition they are in. When you walk into the break room to start the day you see black and white portraits of affected patients. You get to see the terrible struggle they wake up to everyday and the terrible disease they must face every day. Every time I got to the building to volunteer, I always take a moment to look at these portraits as I walk into the room. They serve as a strong reminder that the work you do there has a direct impact on someone’s life. This is why I feel such a direct impact at God’s Love We Deliver. When you cook and make a contribution, you know you are changing the life of hundreds of people for the better. This is further reinforced by the extremely positive attitude of the workers. They are always providing extremely positive feedback about how to do some of the cooking more efficiently. I am so grateful that I was able to be a part of this experience as I really feel like I am making a difference in my community. Friends has granted me such a unique opportunity as they are one of the few school that sponsors this Youth Internship Program.
I have been able to get involved outside of the internship program by going to their website at: https://www.glwd.org/
Over the course of the year, I tutored a 20-year-old student in Damascus via Skype. Because of the time difference, I had to wake up at 5:45 A.M. to coordinate with him. We had to make ‘audio calls,’ because his internet was not good enough for video. We were connected through Paper Airplanes Tutoring, which is an organization that connects students around the world with Syrians that want to learn English. I taught a student whose brother was seeking asylum in Germany, and he had hoped to join him there, as he was attracted by work and education opportunities and economic growth. I was teaching towards the TOEFL, an English exam often used as a barometer of one’s fluency. A good score was required in order to obtain a scholarship from a German university-his university had been shut down for the year due to war. The experience was extremely rewarding, and he greatly inspired me. He stopped his English studies once the EU reached an agreement on how many Syrians they would accept. Because he was still in Syria, he was far behind on any asylum process, and the German universities were much harder to attend. I spoke with him at length about ways to flee the country, but he did not want to leave his parents behind. We remain friends, and often still talk on Facebook.