This Service day I was part of the group of Juniors who travelled to the Bronx warehouse of Food Bank NYC in order to help sort and pack food. We all split up into groups to sort and pack different food products in boxes of certain weights. At the end we measured how much food we had packed and learned that we had prepared enough food to help over 2000 families.
After this experience I now understand more the impact of poverty on our city and how many individuals need help getting access to food. I had already worked with other hunger fighting organiziations so this experience did not expose me to many new opportunities to give back although I may continue to help with the food bank in the future after my experience there. This experience altered my sense of community and agency by exposing me to the issue of hunger around my own city. I consider service a responsibility of all members of our community and a way to understand large issues such as hunger.
Over the summer I visited Tobago with the boys varsity soccer team. We worked with an organization called Kleats for Kids to provide cleats and other soccer gear to the schools we visited. Before the trip I collected pairs of used cleats from my friends to be distributed in Tobago. In Tobago we would host volunteer soccer clinics, basically simple run throughs of how we practice, and afterwards we would pass out the cleats and gear. The clinics were amazing experiences, we got to meet and train with kids our age to as young as 5. Everyone was incredibly welcoming. We led clinics at Warren and Sherwin’s old high school, and with a team that they had been on for years when they were younger. Meeting the principle of their high school, and the coach that had trained them were incredibly memorable experiences. After the clinics we often would play against some of the students we had trained with. Not only did we train and play soccer in Tobago, we also explored and learned about the island. On the first day Warren brought us to get doubles, a breakfast snack made of a pancake and chickpea stew which everyone proceeded to spill. We also went to a waterfall called Argyle Falls where everyone had a great time exploring the river and jumping off of the rocks. The trip to Tobago was something I’ll never forget.
Kleats for Kids
Over the course of this year I have volunteered with the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association (SPNA) to help garden in the park next to school. I helped plant flower bulbs before winter, rake leaves in th spring and spread mulch to help the soil. I got to meet a lot of people in the neighborhood who also wanted to help and I enjoyed gardening with groups of highschoolers from other schools or programs. Now when I walk through the park seeing all the green and the flowers I can actually see what I worked for and what I planted. SPNA has gardening events every other Saturday. They are quite fun and I encourage anyone in need of service or who wants to help garden to try. For any information you can contact SPNA at email@example.com.
Seen while Gardening
A mulch pile we distributed, from SPNA Facebook
For my YPI project I learned about the issue of teen pregnancy in our community in a group of five. Our organization we worked with was the Carrera Adolescent Prevention Program. At first I had no idea how teen pregnancy was usually prevented and I didn’t know what effect it had on people’s lives. After studying the issue and visiting our organization’s offices I think my mindset was changed on the issue. I had no idea how many girls became pregnant each year or what the consequences of a teen pregnancy in the long term were. Pregnant teens usually will stop their education and if they do not they wont do well in school. We talked with the founder of our organization, Dr. Michael A. Carrera, who explained to us how the program helps all parts of a students life. The organization provides students in bad areas tutoring, teaches them sex ed and also helps them develop interests in sports and art. By helping them in all these areas the Carrera program gives them hope for their future and alternatives to sex which prevents teen pregnancy. Dr. Carrera at first taught sex ed to teens in Harlem but after a while he realized that they had so many issues that they couldn’t focus on what he taught them. In his words, “the sex message sticks when things are going better on in their lives.” I really agreed with this view and his stories of his students really motivated me to work towards stopping the issue of teen pregnancy. Dr. Carrera welcomed us and gave us his book on teen pregnancy Lessons For Lifeguards.
Dr Michael A Carrera with students in the program
Dr Carrera’s book he gave to each of the members of my group
On Saturday December 13th I marched in the Millions March NYC and hosted a meeting of activists and organizers at my house. My family knows Michael Skolnik, a member of the board of advisors of Justice League NYC, and a modern day civil rights leader. Since I live near Washington Square Park, the start of the march, he asked my family if we would host a meeting of organizers before the march. At the meeting I met many activists and journalists marching or reporting in the march. There were also some family members of the victims of police shootings or racially connected murders. I learned the story of Emmett Till, a black teenager tortured for reportedly flirting with a white woman in the 50s, from his cousin who came to New York to march. Emmett Till’s murder was shown to the whole country and inspired leaders of the civil rights movement like Rosa Parks. Ron Davis, the father of Jordan Davis, who was shot dead in Florida by a man in an argument over loud music, also came to New York.
Before leaving my house I could already see huge crouds of marchers gathering in Washington Square park from my window. When I got there I realized that what I had seen had been only a small fraction of the crouds assembled there. At least half of the entire park was already filled up with marchers, more were coming every second and the marchers were moving incredibly slowly out of the park. The organizers estimated that there were 30,000 marchers. The sound was also deafening, chants moved down the march slowly towards the back and new one’s started frequently. Some common chants were, “Hands up. Don’t shoot.” as well as, “If I can’t breathe, shut it down. If You can’t breathe, shut it down. If Eric garner can’t breath…” These chants were call out back and forth with one person shouting out the first line and other marchers responding. I stayed in the park for 30 or 45 minutes before I got to fifth avenue. On fifth avenue the pace increased and I was able to look around at banners and signs held up by marchers better. Many banners had the phrase black lives matter, many also had lists of victims of police shootings and one person I saw held up an upside down american flag.
Marchers in Washington Square Park
- Protesters stretching from the Arch in Washington square park past 13th street.
I marched for 5 hours, stopping once to get a snack with the group of people I had been with since we left my house, and returning to the front of the march. At the front of the march protesters held up panels that together depicted Eric Garner’s eyes. The march was one of the first times I had ever protested in a march to support civil rights and I am glad I was able to stand up to support civil rights and be able to meet many organizers of the march.
Eric Garner’s eyes at the front of the march (source)