This summer, throughout the end of June and for the first three weeks of July, I volunteered at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Yonkers, NY. Every morning I would take a Metro-North train to Yonkers and walk about 10 minutes until I arrived at the hospital, where I did a variety of volunteering jobs. The head of volunteering at the hospital is Maria Callarame, who I became very close to over my time volunteering there. Every morning I would go to her office and talk for a few minutes before she told me who needed help throughout the hospital. The job I did most often was helping Pearl, who worked in Medical Records and I also became very close to, scan the retired doctor’s files so there would be a digital copy of them and the paper copy could be shredding and recycled to make room for new doctors being added to the hospital. I also made goodie bags for patients checking out of the hospital, assisted nurses in the ER make beds and deliver blood samples to the lab, and made files with the proper documents for EMT personnel and nurses checking in new patients. Not only was it fulfilling to see the work I was doing manifested in front of me in the form of grateful employees or more space in file storage bins, but I got an introduction to what it might be like to pursue a medical profession, which I am interested in doing. The staff was very welcoming and encouraged me to return during school breaks and next summer, which I look forward to doing.
The image below is a photo of my ID card that I was given.
Throughout this year, on every Day 8, I took a trip across the street to Stuyvesant Square Park to volunteer for the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation. During these trips, I replenished the doggy-bag dispensers throughout the two parks on either side of 2nd Avenue. Through this experience, I had the pleasure of experiencing what the parks I grew up in after school as a child looked like when all of the children of New York City were in school and the parks were just being enjoyed by the other citizens of NYC. Not only that, but I also met the kind Stuyvesant Square Park head Josie, who I would see every week or so on Day 8 as I picked up the doggy-bags from her. Although our short conversations never got farther than how cold New York was being even though it was April or when I have days off of school, they were some of the highlights of my day as I experienced just how kind a complete stranger can be to a high school student who comes to get doggy-bags from her every week or so. Not only was it rewarding to see how other people live their lives while I was in school, it also gave me a time of peace in my busy high school life to just listen to music and walk around a beautiful New York City Park and a time to catch up with friends I hadn’t spoken to in a while who shared that Day 8 last period free with me, as well. I have a newfound appreciation for the park I grew up in as a child now, as I now understand that it is not just a place for me and my friends to play manhunt in first grade, but a place where a community of New Yorkers come every day to enjoy a break from the craziness of their day-to-day lives.
In my YPI Project group, I was partnered with Bookie, Ale, Allen, and Dwight. We decided on the topic of Teenage Runaways. After multiple days of looking for a non-profit organization to represent, we chose Safe Horizon. A branch of Safe Horizon is the StreetWork Project. In this organization, they have drop-in centers throughout the city, where street teens placed on the street from running away or other problems, may come and receive food, shelter and other help until they close every day.
Over the course of this project, I explored a whole new world of kids my age who have problems much worse then the ones I worry about every day. We take so much for granted in our daily lives, a place to sleep, delicious and healthy food every day, our education, while some kids barely have a place to sleep, let alone food and education.
When we had our site visit, we met with the head of the StreetWork Project, Carolyn Strudwick, who had been working with the StreetWork Project since the 70s. What affected me most during this site visit, was something that happened to us while we were walking up the stairs to their facility. In front of us was a group of kids our age, laughing, joking around, and having a better time than we were. But to our amazement, when we reached the top of the stairs, we witnessed them walk into the StreetWork Project drop-in center. They were street teens themselves, living much worse a life than we were living, but they were making the best of it, having more fun than I had had all that day.