During my time in politics class, I had the opportunity to research and compare the platforms of both presidential candidates. This was not only interesting, but it helped show me, my class, and the rest of the upper school the actual wording of both candidates and not be distracted by the media narratives surrounding them. Through this project, I learned more about how media coverage shapes my opinions and how to better research political issues so that I can be a more involved citizen.
This past summer and fall, I volunteered at the GO Project, where underprivileged children can have access to high quality education and resources. My responsibilities included helping the children focus and finish their projects. It was truly amazing to see the children who I helped teach improve by leaps and bounds over the course of my time there. Although it was very challenging, I was able to learn patience and collaborative skills from dealing with the children. I was also able to see education from an educators perspective which helped me understand how people learn. In addition, I learned about the great problem of educational inequity in New York and the US in general. I believe my experience was very positive overall, and I learned as much as the children in my class did.
During the summer, I went with Global Works on a service trip to Puerto Rico. The purpose of the trip was not only to help the local villagers in the town of Bolas with contraction projects, but also to learn from Puerto Rican culture and the Spanish language. Although we did many tourist-oriented things, such as a walking tour of San José and zip lining through the rainforest, the most memorable part was the service. We helped Bolas build a cement shed for the doctor, who comes twice a month, to keep their medical supplies, as well as helping build a wall around the local church. During this time we participated in home stays, where the families spoke only Spanish. Although my friend who stayed with me in my house spoke Spanish very well, I was struck by how much we were separated by language. I was also surprised at how much they were willing to sacrifice to feed two extra people, as their whole town is relatively impoverished, although not dangerous. They even went out of their way to sleep in one room while we slept in our own room. It was truly humbling to experience their personal sacrifice up close. I was glad that I was able to learn so much about a different language, culture, and society at the same time as giving to the local people.
The social issue that I researched was child poverty in New York. I found out that a disproportionate number of children are poor compared to the number of children in general. The largest issue of poverty is the fact that it causes people to remain in poverty since poverty leads to less education, which leads to less opportunities for success later in life and lower family income. The Association to Benefit Children (ABC) attempts to break this cycle by stepping in at the stage of poverty where children do not get education. However, ABC is effective because it not only educates children, but offers umbrella programs, which deal with different aspects of child poverty, like mental health, physical health, and even family services.
The YPI project and the preparation for it changed my attitude towards child poverty. While before the project I believed that child poverty was an isolated issue, I realized that it affected future generations and therefore was a much more pressing issue. In addition, although I had known that child poverty existed, I had never realized the magnitude and gravity of the issue, which mainly got through to me on the site visit, when I saw the children who were actually effected by this radical issue. The process was challenging, however, because conveying the issue to others proved difficult and there were other organizations with equally pressing issues that presented against us. However, although our group was not picked for the grant, I believe that people realized the importance of the issue, which was somewhat rewarding.