While in Washington DC during the first semester, I volunteered at Thompson Elementary School. I worked there with my classmates for three hours a day. One hour was spent playing basketball and the other two reading with the kids. Thompson Elementary is a predominantly African American and hispanic underfunded public school. In general the goal of the program, “Books and Basketball”, was to keep the students off of the streets for the three hours after school. The parents of the kids were generally unable to pick their kids up after school, because they were still at work, so the program also helped the families gaining them three hours extra of work. Working with the kids was a lot of fun. Both their reading and athletic skills grew exponentially throughout the duration of the program, and both they and their parents were grateful for our work.
This summer I was a counselor in training at a camp called Camp Dark Waters in Medford, New Jersey. Camp Dark Waters is a quaker summer camp for less privileged kids on a creak with dark waters, hence the name. One of my most fond memories from this summer was helping a seven year old boy named AJ get his Bowman. Bowmen are campers who pass a series of canoeing challenges. AJ was shy and homesick almost all of the time, so I was surprised when he approached me and asked for my help on getting his Bowman. I agreed and in less than a week there was only one out of twenty challenges left. The last challenge was called unswamping, it requires two campers to lift a fifty pound canoe filled with water above their heads and flip it to drain it. AJ failed the first three times, unable to pick the canoe up over his head. On the fourth time he mustered all of his strength and was able to pick the canoe up. It took the rest of his strength to hold it above his head for the thirty seconds needed to empty the canoe of all of its water. After thirty seconds we put the canoe down and he started crying. For the rest of camp he was more social and wasn’t at all homesick. On the last day when he was being pick up before he introduced me to his parents saying that I changed his whole camp experience. Those words made me reflect on the maybe twenty minutes I had spent with him canoeing over the summer. The little work I had put in made the difference for his whole summer, and that amazed and motivated me to keep working on the little things that really counted.
For almost three weeks me and my classmates participated in a service project called YPI, short for youth and philanthropy initiative. The goal of the project is to get teens involved in problems in our communities. Everyone was put into groups of three to five kids. Each group was told to choose a non-profit in New York. My team choose a group called City Squash, based in the Bronx. City Squash helps underprivileged children with their school work, while teaching them squash at Fordham University. When we visited their small offices in the Bronx I could immediately see the dedication of the kids and the people helping them. This really opened my eyes to this huge problem throughout the country. Throughout the project I kept thinking about the dedication and it really motivated me. While giving the final presentation I felt good about what I had done. I knew it didn’t matter wether we won or lost because we raised awareness about the issue to the whole community. During the project I really developed better public speaking skills. After the project I have stayed in touch with the organization and I have been thinking about volunteering there this summer.