For the first part of this year, I was a tour guide for the admission’s office. I gave tours to prospective students and their families. I enjoyed getting to talk to the students about my favorite parts of Friends. In preparing to be a tour guide, I learned a lot of interesting facts about the school that I did not know before. It was nice getting to share the experiences I have had in different classes with the prospective families and highlight which teachers I thought were particularly amazing. I saw one of the boys I gave a tour to later on when he was visiting the school as an admitted student. He said he loves Friends and I really hope he comes in the fall. It was a great experience being able to see the future faces of Friends, a place I love so much and will sadly be leaving next year.
Last Saturday my dad and I spent the day grocery shopping for, cooking, and delivering meals to the homeless people at the Friends Shelter. We made dinner, dessert, and breakfast for the shelter. I have delivered meals to the shelter several times over the course of my time at Friends and I really love doing it. I see the space that transforms into a shelter at night everyday when I’m at school and I like that I can help people who are so close to the school community. When we deliver the food, the bed are set up and the people who collect the food from us are so grateful. It makes me so happy to see the Friends values alive at all hours of the day. I plan to continue delivering meals to the shelter even after I leave Friends.
In Stefan’s Politics class earlier this year, we talked a lot about the 2016 presidential election. We watched videos about, read articles on, and wrote essays on the two candidates, trying to better educate ourselves on the differences and similarities of their opinions and plans. Stefan made the class as unbiased as possible, showing us information and articles from various sources and authors. The discussions we had about the election in class were very interesting and I enjoyed hearing everyone’s thoughts and learning more both about Clinton and Trump, and also about the election process itself. We did a project in which we were broken up into pairs and each group researched a specific issue that was pertinent to the election. Zara Schreiber and I looked at Clinton and Trump’s economic visions and their plans for job growth and creation. We then made a side-by-side chart illustrating where different aspects of Clinton and Trump’s plans were similar and where they were extremely different. Stefan compiled all of the charts made in the class and put them up on a website for our community to look at and have at its disposal for all election-related information. We hoped that this website would serve as a useful tool for the community. Here is a link to the website: http://blogs.friendsseminary.org/electionissues2016/
In Epidemiology, my group was chosen to study a health issue that affects Staten Island and we found on the Community Health Survey that Staten Island has a low percentage of people who have gotten tested for HIV and who used a condom the last time they had sex. In light of this, my group opted to open an HIV testing and sexual health clinic in Staten Island. This project opened my eyes to the serious lack of health care or inequity in the health care system faced by many boroughs in New York, and specifically in Staten Island. Many neighborhoods have only a small percentage of people with health insurance and many are not receiving the medical services that they need.
We got a tiny glimpse into just how difficult it is to set up a health clinic through this project. Finding a rental space cheap enough to reasonably afford that was also within commuting distance was challenging (especially in Staten Island where the public transportation is notoriously flawed) and keeping the budget relatively low also presented difficulty. However, we were able to find organizations that give grants to help fund health (and more specifically, HIV) clinics in New York and around the world, so our clinic might be able to receive some or all of its money from such organizations.
This project definitely made me more aware of the world around me, the inequities in health care and services, and of the health issues that afflict the boroughs. Seeing these issues and the inequity in those who receive health care has made me really motivated to try to improve the health care system in New York and help those who need assistance get the medical attention and services they need.
Throughout the course of this year, I worked with pediatrician Alan Shapiro at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in the South Bronx. Alan does great work with underprivileged children who suffer from various illnesses. Many of his patients have asthma and breathing issues due to living in tiny, cramped apartments with inadequate cleaning maintenance and ventilation. Alan not only works as a doctor for these children, but he often develops personal relationships with them and their families, becoming a father figure to some or an older brother to others. Alan is my neighbor and I have grown up around him, running to him when I got a cut or that horrible time I was stung between my toes by a bee. Alan is easily one of the greatest, most intelligent, and selfless people I know, and I feel honored to have gotten to work with him. Over the course of a couple months, I collected clothes from many different families I know, organizing a drive and sorting through and washing the clothes. After a couple months of collecting, my dad and I brought the clothes to Alan at the hospital in the South Bronx. I was able to meet a few patients while I was there and see pure joy cross a little girl called Cora’s face as she unfolded a barbie sweatshirt I had brought. To this day, I still receive letters and photos from the children and families who got some of the clothes and it warms my heart. I plan to continue collecting clothes for the children at this hospital this summer and next school year because it was a great experience.
Over spring break I cooked meals for the Friends shelter a couple times. I cooked dinner, dessert, and breakfast and then delivered the meals to the shelter. When I arrived at the shelter, all of the beds were set up and I met some nice people who volunteered to work at the shelter that night. It was really great to be able to do something so closely connected to my school. I think it is really amazing that Friends’ quaker values are alive at all hours of the day, and it is helping people in need even when most people are sleeping. Living in New York, I think we all see a lot of homelessness. I pass by a man everyday in the subway who is so skinny and has a sign blessing anyone who can do anything to help him. As New Yorkers we are trained to stay away from and avoid eye contact with strangers, so it was nice for me to finally be able to actually “make eye contact” and do my part to help with the huge problem of homelessness in NYC.
YPI Service Learning Reflection
My group (Ashley, Esme, Kofi, and Bryan) decided to work on the issue of teen pregnancy for our YPI project. However, we did not want to work with an organization that dealt with teen pregnancy prevention or helping girls before they got pregnant. We wanted to help girls who were already pregnant and to find a non-profit that did not criticize or judge the pregnant teens. After a lot of research and work, we found Covenant House, which helps homeless, pregnant teenagers by giving them temporary housing, food, and the resources they need to go on job interviews or go back to school. Covenant House sounded like a lovely place where the people really cared about and helped the girls.
Visiting Covenant House was an amazing experience. It far exceeded any of the ideas I had conjured up in my head of what it would be like. The staff was so friendly, unintimidating, and they each had a personal connection and relationship with every girl and her baby. Seeing these personal relationships really opened my eyes about the social issue of teen pregnancy. As we were trying to find a non-profit for our social issue, we saw so many videos, websites, and pictures that put down teen moms and treated them like villains, having children when they could not properly take care of them. When you constantly see this idea of the teen mothers being irresponsible and villainous, you can start to adopt the notion a bit. Seeing the girls at Covenant House coming to get help and try to provide for their children, I really realized that, yes, they may have been irresponsible or reckless at one point, but these girls are now trying as hard as they can to make a better life for themselves and their baby, and I deeply admire that. Seeing the girls in person also really made the social issue more “real” for me. They had beautiful babies, and they looked like any other girl. Overall, my experience with Covenant House taught me so much about acceptance, love, and how incredible these girls are that they can swallow their pride and get help when they need it.
I would love to stay involved with Covenant House. When we were there, we asked the woman talking to us, Renata, about how we could continue to help. Renata said that the most helpful thing would be to have a supplies drive for diapers, baby clothes, and wipes. I would definitely have a drive for Covenant House.
Acknowledgements: I worked alone.