Nick Markus’ Service Reflection

On The Importance of Physics, determination, and a good sense of humor


Back in the beginning of the year, everything seemed fresh. The year got off to a good start, I had the limitless possibility of college before me, and those senior facing benches made me feel ever so slightly superior to everyone else (as If I ever needed help for that!)

There was only one grim specter over my head: I had to lead robotics. The club was my life for 3 years, and when the seniors of last year left (4 in total) we were left with only 3 people. Then the other 2 quit. It all seemed desperate, but at the last moment, in my eleventh hour, I stood up in meeting for announcements and made the greatest announcement of all time!
“Come tomorrow and learn the nuts and bolts of robotics!”    Thunderous applause

Tomorrow came, I waited in room 404, and nobody showed up. I was crushed, the club remained on my CommonApp (I needed every boon I could get!), but it no longer remained in existence.


Weeks if not months later, my physics teacher, John Garnevicus, Asked my classmate Ainsley Cass and I to announce and host a freshman physics review session.

Our announcement warranted less genuine laughs than pained groans as we attempted to make a physics seem fun and cool. The next day, only a few kids actually showed up to physics review.

Still, we were not to be discouraged. Again and again we made cheesy announcement after cheesy announcement, and unlike that tragedy of robotics, people came.

I mentioned robotics because I think there was a key difference between physics review and that ill fated club. The difference is that unlike with robotics we never gave up trying. In the end, I think Ainsley and I have genuinely helped a few freshmen understand and comprehend physics. And if our annoyance and persistence helped a single person, it was worth it.

Nicholas Markus Reflection on Nepal

This is an abbreviated reflection. I have an unabridged version in the form the personal journal which I took on the trip with me. In the void of technology I wrote. I wrote and I wrote. Most of it was about what we did on the trip, some of it was about the people, some of it was deeply personal, and all of it private. But I will try to do this momentous extravaganza of a Spring-Break trip justice.

I suppose for a community service reflection blog I ought to focus on the actual community service element of the whole thing, and less on the hiking and touring (that remains for facebook, but not here). So I will do just that.

The service element of our trip to Nepal was run through an organization called BuildOn ( If you’re too lazy to click on that link, BuildOn is a charitable organization which specializes in building schools in rural villages all across the globe. Furthermore, the organization seeks to empower young girls by providing them with equal education opportunities as well as providing adult literacy classes for adult women who were not able to learn how to read due to an earlier lack on an education.

Our role in the whole BuildOn process was to go to one such rural villiage, stay with local families, and to participate in the building of the new school. I got to the villiage, met and stayed with my very friendly host family (only one of whom spoke any English!), and over the next 3 days I alternated between manual labor at the work site and learning more about the village and its culture. And that’s about it I suppose.


My brevity on the subject of what it is specifically that we did may seem strange, but I assure you my lack of description does not come from a lack of things to write about. Even the day in the live of a normal dude can pave the way for entire epics, Just look at Jame’s Joyce. Rather, I feel like going into the minutia wouldn’t be an effective use of my time. Instead I want to talk about how this amazing trip changed my life forever.


It didn’t.

It didn’t change my life forever.

Don’t get me wrong the trip was utterly fantastic and enlightening on so many levels, but I feel like “life-changing” would be such an awful and cliche thing to say about it. Our lives change every single moment, and as repetitive as it seems nothing that happens to us has ever really happened before, it’s all subtly different. In essence, I am changed each day by the mere experience of existing in a day the likes of which has never existed before. Really what people mean when they say “life-changing” is “altering future plans”. People go through life with a vague idea of how subsequent experiences will go (I will go to college in a few years, after that I’ll probably get a job related to programming, after that I’ll die eventually), but sometimes, people are visited by an epiphany. They do something and out of the blue they realize they want to do something else. They found charitable organizations, start a band in their forties, change jobs, change sexuality, change sex, change a college major, or change something else entirely.

I’ll never forget Nepal, I’ll never forget Kathmandu, I’ll never forget Dhangadhi or Domalia, or any one of the places we hikes to (I have my trusty journal for that), but I do not thing my future plans were changed forever. Still, even if my life wasn’t changed, I helped build a school. One day, when it is complete, children will attend that school. They will learn and they will learn and they will learn and one day they will go on to do great things. So no, my future will not be changed by my experiences on this trip, but with a little luck many young people’s lives will be.




(Oh, and here are some photos!)

A photo of my lovely host family, my host family buddy Richard, and myself!

A photo of my lovely host family, my host family buddy Richard, and myself!

The ceremonial place of the "first dig" i.e. where work officially started

The ceremonial place of the “first dig” i.e. where work officially started

One of BuildOn's other successful schools!

One of BuildOn’s other successful schools!

Nicholas Markus Service reflection: Helping out at Friends big FAT service day

On April 19th I decided to come into school on a Saturday to help out with the Friends big FAT service day. Immediately I found my self working with others in maintaining the tolerance garden in Stuyvesant park. First we weeded the plants and picked up any little pieces of trash we found, and then we added mulch to the soil to help the flowers grow. After a couple long hard hours working we were all treated to lunch by the school, and afterwards I spent some time decorating cards for Birthday in a box.

It made me incredibly happy to help make a small part of our city even more beautiful by helping maintain the flowers in Stuyvesant park. It was also quite satisfying to help make a few children’s birthdays slightly happier even if they are less fortunate than I am.