This summer, I interned with an organization called the Go Project. Go Project works mostly with under resourced children from schools in lower Manhattan who face learning challenges and need more help and attention. Go Project takes place on Saturdays throughout the school year, but during the summer there is a one month school, in which the children have three hours of academics and three hours of extracurriculars. During the summer portion of Go Project, fittingly named Go Summer, around 70 interns are hired. What made working with this organization so special, is what the internship required. As an intern, we were required to attend professional development sessions. Each week, we would have a new topic. Topics included microaggression, tracking in schools, diversity and privilege, and a few others. For each topic, we would have required readings which we would then discuss in the professional development sessions. Because I was an intern for the enrichment classes, I would spend an hour at Grace Church in the professional development session, and then I would make my way over to Friends to help assist the class with my enrichment teacher. My enrichment class happened to be fencing, which was quite an experience because I had never picked up a fencing sword, which I now know is called an epee, in my life. At least for the first couple of weeks, I was learning and teaching fencing to the kids at the same time. The last thing the interns had to do was create a hustle project. Every intern combined their passion and their knowledge, and presented the project at the end of the internship. For my hustle project, I ended up teaching a class of 8th graders about the causes and effects of Islamophobia.
I always knew about the educational divides in our country, but I had no clue to what extent it was a problem. Go Project was eye-opening in this aspect. Through the readings and the professional development sessions, I really began to get a sense of how much of our educational problems stem from racial divides. The truth is, in most cases, the color of ones skin significantly affect their chances of going to good schools whether it be elementary school or college. One exercise we did in our professional development sessions really hit me. We were asked to compare all white and all black schools from 1964 when the Civil Rights Act was passed, with underfunded and overfunded schools from now. What we discovered is there are striking similarities between underfunded schools from now and all black schools from 1964, including the segregation of whites and minorities. I also found out that many of the private schools in New York City and around the country were created after the Civil Rights Act, to keep schools segregated. The reason I know Go Project was an amazing learning experience for me was because despite all theses glaring problems that I learned about our education system, I came out of the internship feeling for the first time like I could, individually, make a difference. This is always something I’ve struggled with because there are so many problems in the world and sometimes it feels like whatever effort you give to change it is futile. Two things really changed that view point for me this summer. The first was witnessing how much Go Project has done to change the landscape of education. Yes, they deal only with lower Manhattan, but that is still a sizable amount of people and the organization really has made strides. The second was my Islamophobia presentation. After my presentation, the teacher came up to me and told me the kids were actually discussing what I said. Considering I gave my presentation to restless 8th graders, it meant a lot to me to hear that the kids actually took in what I had said. I have no way of knowing whether the kids that I gave this lesson to truly took it to heart , but for the first time I felt like I had really made a difference.
Above: A picture of one of my fencing classes eating snack with their equipment on in the outer courtyard.