This year I attended the first annual Sustainability Through Student Voices conference. It was a great way to learn about the various environmental problems facing our planet. The conference was setup with two speakers, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and then there were three periods with many different presentations on different issues and I got to choose which ones to attend. The presentations included talks about plastic bag bans and issues with our shrinking clean water supply. There was also a reflection session at the end and it was really interesting to hear other people’s takeaways from the conference and how they would change their daily lives based on what they learned at the conference. I learned about changes I could make in my every day life to reduce my impact on the environment; however, one of the biggest takeaways I had from the conference was that we are still not doing enough as a society to reduce our impact on our planet. I really recommend this conference to anyone who is looking to educate themselves about ways to help save environments all over the world. One of the best parts about this even is that it is led by students so you are learning and discussing ideas with many of your peers.
This past year I volunteered for a book drive with Project Cicero for the third consecutive year. Project Cicero holds these book drives for teachers who work at under resourced schools and may not have all the books they wished to have. Once again I really enjoyed it and still believe it is a great way to do some service. This year I was assigned to organizing books into their respective categories. The past two years I worked with moving boxes of books to the sorting areas and crushing old boxes to be taken down to the basement. Those two jobs were very rewarding in their own respect; however, this year was probably the most rewarding. We would organize books for about a half hour, and then the teachers would come in a take books for their classrooms. It was great to see my work directly making an impact in another person’s life, knowing that those books would be available for students and other schools to read. After the teachers left, the shelves of sorted books would be almost empty and I could really feel the impact that this book drive was making on school all across the city. Not only is this volunteer opportunity rewarding, but it is also a great activity to do with friends since you can work as a group and talk with them as you sort the books.
This year for service day, my advisory worked at a soup kitchen in Brooklyn. It was a really fun experience because I got to know people at the soup kitchen who work there and I probably never would have met these people if I had not participated at the soup kitchen. They were all very welcoming of our help and one of them was very funny and made lots of jokes the entire time to keep up a good atmosphere. There are lots of jobs that you can have at the soup kitchen including moving around containers of food, washing dishes, preparing the food and even serving it. I was assigned to washing dishes. There were some people washing the plates people used to eat on but I was washing the trays and bowls that were used to prepare and bake the food. It was hard physical labor and y arms were tired at the end from lifting the large trays and holding them while I washed them off. However, it was still a great experience because I was with some familiar faces while getting to know really nice people I probably never would have crossed paths with.
This year I stayed after school and worked with Empty Bowls to help glaze bowls other students had made. It was my second year with this program and again it was a lot of fun. Glazing bowls is not as hard as it may sound and you can hang out with your friends while doing it. It felt really accomplishing because glazing a bowl does not take long so you can do multiple in one session of service and you know that these bowls are going to a great organization.
One new thing this year is that the leaders teach you about hunger in America while you are glazing bowls. I thought this was a great addition since you learn how big and important the problem of hunger is in America. Also, many times you hear about it but don’t feel like anything you can do personally will help but they actually give you a few simple and easy things to do at home that can make a big difference. Empty Bowls is a great way to get service done and is an enjoyable experience because the work is not labor intensive, you can do it with your friends and you learn a but about hunger in America along the way, something that never hurts.
This year I worked with Project Cicero to help organize books for teachers looking to get new books for their classrooms. It was my second year in a row working with the organization. Last year I spent my time removing and tearing up empty boxes, one vital piece to the system. However, this time I got to help organize the books themselves. It was a very enjoyable experience because I got to talk and hang out with a lot of my friends while getting service done. They are also very appreciate of everyone’s help there. They start with a quick mandatory information session where they tell you how the whole operation works but once that is done, you are mostly free in terms of helping out. You can organize books, tear up empty boxes, carry out organized or bring in new boxes of unorganized books.
I really liked organizing the books because with each book I organized I felt like I was contributing. Sometimes with big service events it is hard to feel like you are doing something because you don’t always see the direct result of your work. However, you organize books for about a half hour at a time and then a group of teachers come in and take the books they want you so actually watch people use what you have been working on. You really feel like each book you organize is helping the teachers find them and you know that those books are going to libraries for students who don’t have access to lots of books so you know you are making a difference in their lives. I would recommend Project Cicero to anyone who is looking for a fun way to get their service done and wants to feel accomplished at the end of the day.
This past March, I got the privilege to work with Project Cicero. Project Cicero is an organization that accepts donated books and then sorts them into groups. After the sorting is completed, teachers come to choose from the sorted books for their own classrooms. The sorting is a very complicated and detailed process; however, once you are doing for about 10 minutes you get the hang of which books go in what group. The environment is a very supportive one and there are always people there willing to help you find the proper group for books if you are ever unsure. While the room became very hectic at points, the organization was overall a well oiled machine. At any given point it can seem like not much is being done, but by the end of the four hours, the room will have transformed from a pile of thousands to books to lots of organized boxes of books stacked neatly into piles.
I worked with Project Cicero two days this year. On my first day I was assigned to organize books. We would take books from old boxes and sort the books into fresh, new boxes. I would grab a stack of books at a time and walk around sorting multiple at a time rather than grab one each time. I did this for about an hour and felt very rewarded after sorting hundreds of books. However, this was not the end of my contributions. Soon, I got pulled over by someone that worked with the organization and got asked to helped crush old boxes that could not be reused. This process involved stepping on and ripping apart books. This is another one of the positions a volunteer could occupy for Project Cicero. Not only are there these two, fun and rewarding positions but there are others as well if you are looking for a more relaxed position or a more heavy lifting one. Book sorting and box crushing can get pretty intense at points, but there is box lifting for a more heavy lifting job and box checking for a more relaxed job. Box checking is where people sit by boxes and double check that all the books inserted into the book is in its proper group. My first day was pretty relaxed compared to the first since the teachers did not come on the first day.
My second day, I returned to crushing boxes and even got assigned to moving dumpsters up and down from our room and the basement. While, this job seems pretty gross, you really develop a relationship with the other people you are working with and are constantly in motion so you don’t even realize the dirt on your hands. Throughout my second day, I shifted back and forth between sorting books and box crushing. With all the teachers visiting every 30 minutes, book sorting was much more intense the second day and would stop when the teachers entered which is when I would return to box crushing. Honestly, I found the environment to be warm and welcoming and you are almost never standing still so definitely come prepared to work, but by the end the work is very rewarding and you will truly feel like you made a huge contribution to the overall goal.