In Kristen Fairey’s Ethnic New York class, I researched Murray Hill, the neighborhood I live in and how the story of New York City can be told through its architecture. I took ethnographic field notes, wrote a 10 page paper based on primary and secondary resources, recorded two interviews with residents of Murray Hill, and made a visual exhibit which combined all of the previous work I did. It was intriguing to learn about the history of the Murray Hill Historical District along with the ethnography of the neighborhoods where my peers reside.
The Friday before the Spring Fair, Elena and I were two of many who blew up balloons to make the balloon arch. Initially, I figured it would be an easy task but it proved to be quite difficult. When we first arrived, we were told to watch a video describing the complex process of making a balloon arch. This video utterly challenged my previously acquired knowledge of blowing up balloons. Instead of using our breath or helium to fill the balloons, we used a machine. I also learned about the existence of this contraption called a balloon sizer, which is basically a box used to ensure that all balloons were of the same diameter. The one sold by the company was about thirty dollars, so instead we were supplied with a piece of cardboard with a hole cut out to size the balloons. Despite these resources designed to aid the arch making process, there were still many challenges to overcome. First of all, there were a lot of people who were helping make the arch and only one air machine and balloon sizer to be shared. We also had to precisely follow the instructions of the video and had to make certain that the individual parts of the arch would all fit together which ended up not being as easy as i thought.
With so many people and so many balloons and only one machine, I expected chaos to ensue. However, after a few minutes, people of all ages were seamlessly working together to create this arch. There were many smaller groups all responsible for a different part of the arch, all using the same balloon blower to complete their tasks. I alternated using the blower to blow up balloons with people from other groups. Elena sized the balloons I blew up, lower schoolers tied these balloons, and others attached them to the rings to be connected to the arch. Although it was a bit hectic with so many people and so much to do, everyone’s enthusiastic attitudes towards each other made the process as efficient and enjoyable as possible. Through the preparation for the Spring Fair, the true spirit of Friends was revealed. Despite the hardships, Adults and children united and were able to create something colorful and beautiful. The Quaker values of Friends have supported me since Freshman year and helped me grow into the person I am today. It was the least I could do to help prepare for the Spring Fair, an event that would further bring the community together and foster an atmosphere of love and acceptance.
Last September, I took part in the largest climate march in history, The People’s Climate March. When my friends and I arrived at 86th street, we had to wait for what seemed like forever for the march to start. I was hungry, tired, and started complaining to my friends who kept reassuring me that the march would start soon and it would be all good. Eventually, it started, and as my friends and I walked down along the west side of Central Park, zig zagging across the west side and making our way downtown to 34th street, we encountered many diverse peoples all fighting for the same cause. I met individuals who had come from all over the world for the sole purpose of partaking in this climate march. Some of these people had traveled many miles and crossed oceans to arrive there whereas all I had to do was take the subway uptown. With a little help from my friends, I realized that my grumbling stomach was insignificant in comparison to the cause I was marching for and that food would have to wait. Although I was just one person out of hundreds of thousands, my presence was necessary for a change to occur. Every single person’s presence resulted in making this climate march the biggest in history and raising the huge amount of awareness that it did.
Although you may feel insignificant in the battle against climate change, the difference one person can make is enormous. Changing the climate requires each individual to take that first step in reversing the damage that multitudes have created. Climate change affects every form of life. From plants to animals, our actions as humans have devastated this planet to a point where salvation seems impossible. I never thought I would be able to make a difference; I never thought I would have enough motivation to walk for miles on an empty stomach. I cannot emphasize enough how the support of my friends kept me going throughout the climate march, and how your support may be the difference that drives one other person to save the planet. Changing the climate requires the combination of many small efforts, not one big fix-all. Raising awareness through this march required the combined presence of everyone who attended. Rest assured, after it was over, I bought a hot chocolate and a scone to satisfy my appetite. However, my new hunger for change was insatiable and I would make a continued effort to save the world through my own life choices, no matter how small.
Over the course of the project I definitely became more engaged in the topic as I learned about it. I realized that this wasn’t just a regular assignment and that I actually wanted to contribute to Reading Partners. I learned how many problems stemmed from the one issue of illiteracy and how they could be fixed if children were taught how to read. This solution seemed really simple and I think that through the help of Reading Partners so many of New York’s problems can be solved and the future of many kids can become more promising. Over the course of the project I developed presentation making skills. I was also able to significantly improve my connection with the audience from the first presentation to the last presentation. This project made my group learn how to work as a team. We all are very unique people with strong personalities and opinions and we had a few disagreements. By the second presentation we were able to unite because we realized it was the only way to achieve our mutual goal.
The aspect that I found most challenging was learning how to make eye contact and connect with the people who we were presenting to. Lack of eye contact was the fault in our first presentation and it caused us to get a bad grade. By the second presentation our communication became one of our strong points and enabled us to move on to the final round. I found the site visit to be the most rewarding because it gave me the satisfaction of seeing Reading Partners at work and because it united us together as a team. I would say that the site project was the point where we realized that the cause that we were fighting for was more important than our bickering. It was really interesting to see how efficient and effective the curriculum of reading partners was and how the determined the leaders were to make a difference in the lives of these kids. Even though we didn’t win the 5,000 dollar grant towards Reading Partners we realised that we could still remain engaged with the organization. We have decided to have a book drive at school so that we can supply Reading Partners with much needed books. Overall, I think the YPI service was a great project that taught me the importance of literacy and how to work in a group with other people.