This year for my out of school service, I volunteered at my dance school, the 92Y, as an assistant teacher for the Junior Performance Team. Throughout the year the class learns multiple dances, which are then performed at the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, a community center in New York City.
When I first started class, I was very excited to get started. It was a very large class of kids along with some older kids our teacher called, including myself, ‘Big Kids.’ These older kids were in charge of learning and remembering the dances as well as helping out the little kids in the class. It was really nice to be a part of a group of dancers than simply being myself with all the younger dancers. While we learned the dances, we also learned how to work as a team in small groups creating combos to share with the rest of the class. We even had one dance that was solely student choreographed and taught and another dance that was choreographed by our class in small groups and then put together into one full dance.
One of my favorite parts of this experience was helping out one of the students who required extra help during classes. I have often considered going into education and becoming a teacher. Getting to work with younger kids as well as kids requiring extra help was a wonderful opportunity to learn and understand how to help kids out in an educational and fun way while learning new dances.
In April, our dance teachers, Megan Doyle, Director of the 92Y School of Dance, and Courtney Laine Self, had announced they would be showing a musical they had been working on for a few months over the year, over the weekend. That night, after class, I went to see the show. It was entitled MAKING BOOKJACKET. The musical was a futuristic dance inspired by feelings circulating the country around the election year. I was very excited to see my teachers’ work and loved the inspiration they used to create their musical.
On Saturday, April 29th, I participated in the People’s Climate March in Washington DC with a group of fellow students and faculty members from Friends. Despite having to wake up at 5am and take a 4 hour bus ride, I found the event both enjoyable and inspiring. Seeing thousands of passionate people at the march was very exciting to me as it is great to see so many people march for such an important issue. I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and I hope I can continue to attend events such as this in the future.
While the main focus of the globa ed trip to Morocco was intercultural exchange, there were definitely opportunities for service offered during the trip as well. For instance, while we were staying in our homestays in Rabat, we spent a day working with young volunteers at a soup kitchen in the nearby town of Sella. Speaking Arabic and French, we worked with them to discover the cultural differences between American and Moroccan dynamics in the home and in public spaces as well. It was fascinating to hear the perspectives of Moroccan youths as they approached service to their local communities. All of the volunteers we worked with were artists, so I was particularly interested in discovering how they applied their artistic talents to their work at the soup kitchen. Another service activity we experienced in Morocco was in a small town in the Atlas Mountains, working with a women’s cooperative that specialized in providing their community with couscous, a staple of the Moroccan diet. With the oversight of these pioneering women, we got to learn to make couscous and provide the community with a bit more of the food.
Edible Schoolyard NYC, the non-profit organization that my group chose for the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) project, works alongside NYC public schools; particularly those in low-income communities and those who suffer the most form dietary related diseases. Edible School Yard helps set up urban gardens in schoolyards and educates students on how to choose, make and eat healthy and sustainable foods to ultimately maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. They provide students with opportunities to work hands-on in urban grown schoolyard gardens and in cooking classes; as well as allowing them to think, discuss and learn in more typical classroom environments. Their mission statement states: “Edible Schoolyard NYC partners with public schools to transform the hearts, minds, and eating habits of young New Yorkers through garden and kitchen classes integrated into the school day.” They explain that their vision statement “is that all children are educated and empowered to make healthy food choices for themselves, their communities, and their environment, actively achieving a just and sustainable food system for all.”
Working with Edible Schoolyard NYC to promote food education and equality though the YPI initiative, I have become more impassioned about teaching human beings how to take care of themselves in this age of agribusiness and processed food. We all need to reconnect to our food and understand that good food brings good health. Rather than adhering to the city norms of consuming fast food and eating while walking, we need to embrace the cultivation and care of our food, and by doing so; our bodies and minds will thrive.
The greatest challenge for the YPI student is team communication. There is an intensified sense of accountability involved in the completion of this project as you are not only representing yourself and your group in the final product but also the organization you have chosen to support. The clerical work that is involved with organizing schedules and arranging meet up times is incredibly time-consuming. I would recommend to perspective YPI participants to visit the organization’s site location as early as possible and in our school’s case, before spring break. This will allow maximum time for preparation for the presentation, for research and for follow up questions and in turn reduce the stress level on the project participants.
Although Edible Schoolyard NYC largely depends on volunteers during the school day, we have been looking for ways to continue to support the program beyond a school-initiated project. I would love if our organization could develop a once a month family day on weekends where current Edible Schoolyard NYC students can bring siblings, parents, or grandparents to help by working hands-on in the dirt while learning more about healthy eating and living habits. If this were a possibility, then high school students could more actively volunteer.
Ever since the site visit, I have been telling everyone I know about Edible Schoolyard and the amazing work they have been doing for our New York City community. It was such an incredible experience working alongside them and I strive to continue to spread the mission of healthy sustainable food for all.
Below are a few photos from our site visit to P.S. 7, a demonstration school in East Harlem:
At the beginning of the school year I accompanied Arabic teacher Joseph Sills to one of his fourth grade classes. The idea was, as I understood it, to convince the students-who would be choosing at the end of the year which language they’d like to see through for the duration of their middle school years- that Arabic was the supreme choice. To me this seemed an easy task, given my undying love for the language. I wasn’t initially aware, however, that in order to lure these kids, my passion for Arabic, which I had become comfortable explaining verbally, had to take on a different, more engaging form. In order to the prepare for the session, I was instructed my Joseph to refresh what he thought were my already established kuffiyeh-tying skills. Ultimately, I learned a multitude of knot types and left the room with a new ability: that to communicate my enthusiasm for the Arabic language to a younger audience.
I volunteered at Reading Partners. It was a lot of fun. I tutored this great kid named Hayden and I helped him improve his reading skills. It was very cool to see how my teaching was making an impact on him. I had a great time.
For the 2017 service day, the Freshman class participated in the Youth Philanthropy Initiative. My group chose to do their project on the overly discussed topic of homeless. The experience was quite different from what I expected and I managed to learn a lot more about the social problem than I expect. However, even though my group was unable to present the day of, it was nevertheless extremely interesting to hear about the common problems that occurred within not only the city but the U.S.A. My classmate’s presentation ranged from educational to economical and, a couple even talking about the problems of lack of food knowledge. All in all, it was an interesting experience.
Over the past few years, I have spent my time interning at Writopia Lab, an organization that creates writing workshops for kids ages 5-18. I have been in workshops myself since I was about nine years old, and once I turned 15, I began to intern there over the summer. For my senior year in high school, I interned every Tuesday afternoon in workshops with children under 12 years old to help them type, formulate stories, and edit their work.
Throughout the year, I have worked with various different workshops. The first workshop I worked with was particularly difficult, and I’m very glad that I was able to be there to assist the instructor and make sure everything was running as smoothly as it could. After that workshop, I switched around quite a lot, and have worked with a range of very young kids who can hardly type for themselves to kids who I have sat down and edited serious pieces with. Recently, I have been working with kids in second and third grade, and have helped one girl work on a long story about mermaids, and one boy on a few serial stories he’s decided to write about an adventurer. I am proud to see that, since I’ve started working with them, they have gotten much more excited about their pieces and have been increasing in technical skill very quickly.
I am so lucky to have found Writopia Lab. The hours I’ve spent there, working on short stories, poetry, and plays have made me who I am today. Writopia is a community of diverse, talented people who value the art form just as much as I do, and I’m so glad that I’ve had the opportunity to help them during my time in high school. Furthermore, the children I’ve worked with have inspired me as well, reminding me what it means to be a writer and how exciting it can be to embark on a new story.
This year I took Kristen Fairey’s Ethnic New York class, where I spent the semester researching my neighborhood, Yorkville. I started by reading up on the general history of New York City. I then spent many days at the main NYPL browsing the archives for both primary and secondary accounts of Yorkville, from its creation in the 1850s to what it has become today. In addition, I spent a total of 10 hours on the streets of my neighborhood, observing the ethnographic life and architecture and taking detailed field notes. My extensive research culminated in a paper detailing Yorkville’s journey from farmland to high rises, as well as a visual exhibit in the Rosenquist Gallery summarizing my research. I thoroughly enjoyed the research process, and was surprised to find a depth of diversity in the history of Yorkville, despite its vanilla reputation.
In the February of this year I decided to attend the Chinese Lunar New Year Festival. This year is the year of the rooster. The festival was hosted at the Golden Unicorn restaurant in Chinatown. I first had to fold and organize the programs. What made the experience even better is that some of my friends attended as well. My job was to help a Korean Calligrapher. I had to insert the paper she wrote on in these black frames. Despite the fact she couldn’t speak English, she was very kind and reminded me of my own grandmother. As the festival progressed, the food was prepared and it was very delicious. Towards the end of the festival several workers at the restaurant were all under a Chinese dragon costume. There was loud drums and confetti was spread throughout the whole room.
Advisor: Derek Reid