Natalie’s experience as a fellow at Robin Hood

This summer, I had the privilege of participating in the week-long Robin Hood fellows program. During this program, a group of students from around the New York area came together to learn from organizations working to combat issues related to poverty in the Bronx. We visited a number of sites including the Sustainable South Bronx, Legal Aid, POTS, The Food Bank, and the Children’s Aid Society to hear about the particular problems each organization battled in a hands-on setting. For example, when we visited the Children’s Aid Society, we had the opportunity to spend time with underprivileged pre-schoolers inside the classroom. The Children’s Aid Society implements a curriculum called Tools of the Mind which focuses on building children’s ability to plan ahead and self-regulate. Before participating in any activity, the young children had to first decide what exactly they were going to paint, for example, and write it out in words. Once they had their plan, they were able to creatively execute their plan. These preschoolers were less distracted and more calm than any preschoolers I had encountered previously in other classroom settings. On a different day, we visited the Bronx Housing court and sat in on a few court cases between landlords and tenants. In most cases, the often-non-present landlord had a strong lawyer and the tenant was left without representation or a clue about their legal dilemma, creating an incredibly unequal playing field. Legal Aid partners with the Housing Court to give these tenants representation and a better chance at winning their case. For the culmination of the fellowship, we split up into groups to create well-crafted presentations about the organizations we visited during the week for the parents and Robin Hood staff.

Natalie’s internship at the Food Bank for NYC

This summer I interned at the Food Bank for NYC.  The Food Bank is an
organization that provides food, financial services, and nutritional
education to people below the poverty line throughout New York City.
At the Food Bank, I had the pleasure of working with Laine Rolong, one
of the mangers in the finance sector. I helped her map out which
regions in New York needed the most financial assistance, and
together, we came up with specific ways The Food Bank could be of help
to each neighborhood. In addition, I helped facilitate credit
workshops in poor neighborhoods in the Bronx.  The workshops were held
in spanish at elementary schools so parents could easily
participate.  At these workshops, we taught
parents the basics about how to get and manage credit and debt, since
many of these parents had never had a credit card. Helping with these
workshops was the most hands-on service I have ever done.  My main role
was to help the parents fill our informational worksheets because many
of them were illiterate. It was a sad awakening to see parents of
children in the United States that could neither speak english nor
write (even in spanish). However, the fact that they were at these
workshops meant that they wanted to improve their situation, and it was inspiring to see parents move out of their comfort zone in order to do so.