Ashley’s Abyssinian Baptist Church Youth Worship Experience

Ashley Thompson

Every Sunday from 9 -11am, I go to the Abyssinian Baptist Church to assist in their Youth Ministry. Instead of going upstairs to the Sanctuary, I stay downstairs with the Sunday School and participate as a Youth Worship Leader. In this position, I help lead devotion for the kids as well as help the Sunday School Teachers. This year the Sunday School put on two productions, one for Christmas and one for Palm Sunday, both of which I assisted as a Stage Manager.

My church community has been extremely influential in my upbringing. By helping out with Sunday School, I am able to give back to the community that helped keep me grounded and guide me throughout life. I hope to have the same impact on the kids in Sunday School as my teachers had on me.

Ashley’s Service Reflection

In September, I started volunteering to be a teacher’s assistant for Dance for Joy Ministries. Dance for Joy is my ballet school that I have been dancing with since the age of four. This year a new group of dancers, ages 6 to 12 have started taking classes. My ballet teacher asked my if I would be willing to come in on Saturdays, to help her with the class. I’m so glad I said yes because it was been one of the most rewarding experiences.

Every Saturday at 12:30 I go to Pearl Studios on 36th Street ad 8th Ave. One of the best things about volunteering to help is seeing all of the talent these little girls have. Seeing these girls learning their first ballet steps helped me to understand why my ballet teacher would have us practice basic skills like “plier” and “tendu”. The skills we learn when we first start taking classes set the groundwork that allows us to be able to become more advanced and perform more complicated combinations.

Additionally, getting to connect and joke around with the girls was really rewarding as it allowed me to be a role model. One of the little girls named Nyla said to me, “I’m afraid to move up to the big girls class. It seems hard. I don’t know how you do it. I’ll never be able to do that.” I smiled at her because I remembered feeling the exact same way. I told her if she keeps coming to class she would get better and better and before she knew it she would be dancing with the “big girls”. While I was an assistant I helped the girls with technique, make corrections, lead stretches and helped them practice their dances. I believe that doing all of these things helped me to become a better dancer because it allowed me to refresh and tighten up my technique as well.

I look forward to continuing to help out with the class and I hope to see all of the girls grow to be strong dancers.


Ashley’s Peru Reflection


For my 2015 Spring Break, I went to Peru with 12 other students. It was an extremely rewarding experience and one that I feel everyone should have a chance to experience. The start of our trip was a little rough because our flight was delayed until the next day and then another hour and a half on Sunday March 15. However, once we arrived in Lima all of the trouble didn’t seem to matter anymore. When we arrived in Lima, we went to a local park and sat on the grass. We then had an amazing lunch where I tasted cerviche for the first time, and then headed back to the airport for our flight to Juliaca. We stayed in a hotel in Juliaca our first night, and from that point we lived everyday to the fullest. Over the course of 2 weeks, we visited Puno, Cusco, and The Amazon Rainforest. One the most memorable moments for me was when we visited the Uros Islands on Lake Titicaca and got to meet some of the people that lived there. They were so welcoming and friendly and it was amazing to see how efficient the people living on these islands were. Walking through the streets of Puno and visiting markets and churches was also a great experience. One day, after we went to dinner we were taking a city tour of Puno and a family came up to me and asked if their children could take a photo with me. At the time I thought it was strange, but it is a moment I will never forget.

This trip was in collaboration with a program called Envoys. We had three leaders from Envoys who were on our trip with us. Angela, Flaco and Ahava are honestly some of the nicest, spirited, open-minded and adventurous people I have ever met. I can’t imagine going on a trip with any other leaders. Another amazing place we visited on our trip was Machu Picchu. After waking up at 4:30, and hiking the Inca Trail surrounded by fog, one might think that the experience wasn’t as enjoyable. However, when the fog cleared up, Machu Picchu was one of  the most beautiful things I had ever seen. Seeing Machu Picchu after learning about the Incas throughout our trip really made me appreciate their architecture and skill.

We spent our final days in the Amazon Rainforest where we completed our service project. We planted different types of trees such as cacao, mango and banana. After planting, one of the families we met gave us grapefruit and coconut water to cool down. Hearing all the sounds while we were planting reminded me of how lucky I was to be able to be doing what I was doing. The following day we planted trees on the land of a man named Felix. He told us about his life and taught us how to use his bow and arrow. I wasn’t very good at it but it was great to see all of my friends and chaperones try as well.

Traveling to Peru provided me with an experience that I will never forget and I hope to continue to travel to different parts of the world and experience other cultures as well.

Ashley’s YPI Service Reflection


This is a mural the teen mothers and staff painted together that is located in the Cafeteria at the facility.

This is a mural the teen mothers and staff painted together that is located in the Cafeteria at the facility.

When we visited around Valentine's Day, this heart tree was hanging up in the Cafeteria and it was made by the mothers and children.

When we visited around Valentine’s Day, this heart tree was hanging up in the Cafeteria and it was made by the mothers and children.

This is a designated area for the mothers to feed the children.

This is a designated area for the mothers to feed the children.

Covenant House Five Principles

Ashley Thompson


World History I

8 May 2014

YPI Service Learning Reflection

The social issue my group chose to research was Teen Pregnancy.  The United States has the highest rate of teen pregnancy out of all other developing countries. Teen Pregnancy is especially a problem in New York City and can lead to things such as poverty, unemployment, and homelessness for the mothers and the children. Children of teen moms are more likely not to graduate high school than children whose mothers are over the age of 22.  Rather than put down teen mothers and shame them like some of former Mayor Bloomberg’s campaigns have done, we wanted to pick an organization whose goal is to help the teen mothers and put them back on their feet.

The non-profit organization we chose is Covenant House. We specifically focused on Covenant House’s Mother and Child Program because it directly addressed our social issue. The facility we visited was specifically for Covenant House’s Mother and Child Program located at 427 W 52nd St.  Covenant House is a Catholic organization so they can’t educate teenagers about birth control, but they can educate the girls about STDs and provide support and a home for them if they are pregnant. Covenant House’s Mother and Child Program’s mission is to “help these determined mothers and pregnant teenagers secure a brighter, more stable future for themselves and their babies”. During our site visit everyone was very friendly and welcoming, and overall it was a very rewarding experience.

To some extent, this project affected how I look at teen pregnancy. My cousin Erica got pregnant at a young age and had her son Bailey at the age of 18. I thought Erica had been irresponsible and would have to struggle, but that wasn’t the case because Erica had a family to support her. By visiting Covenant House I realized what an effect having even a little support can do for a teen mother. Instead of making girls feel bad and looking at them disapprovingly, I can only think about what types of responsibilities they must have and how much is needed to really support a child. Instead of campaigns shaming teen mothers I want there to be more awareness for places these girls can go to get help, like Covenant House.

This project really helped me with my leadership skills, public speaking skills, and writing skills. Once we got in contact with Covenant House, I wanted Ms. Renata Alexis, the person in charge at the Mother and Child Program, to know that we really cared about this issue. This meant staying in contact with her, making sure everyone knew what time we were meeting and taking detailed notes during out site visit. Also, presenting in front of a panel of judges as well as my peers about a topic that I became very passionate about was nerve racking, but once I connected with the project the presentation seemed easy. Furthermore, the emails we sent to Renata had to be professional and well written. Having a template to look at and models of good emails I feel that my ability to write important emails has improved.

Trying to fit everything we got out of our site visit into one presentation and keep everyone engaged while showing them how great Covenant House is was very challenging, but I think we managed to do it to the best of our ability. The most important thing for me, was to raise awareness for Covenant House and show the girls that they aren’t alone or weak.

Acknowledgments: None

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