During the summer, I was fortunate to be chosen as a Student Volunteer in the Genetics Laboratory at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. My role had many components. I assisted the post-doctoral researchers with their bench work by labeling test tubes, organizing lab space, sealing boxes with kits, culturing cells, and organizing samples. I also organized data using a computer program named Python. The data related to research on the genetic components of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Ashkenazi Jewish people. I also did research to assist in identifying genes relating to disorders such as Crohn’s Disease. After the summer, I was asked to stay on to work on research relating to genetic influences on responsiveness to treatments. I will be analyzing data and possibly assisting in the preparation of a research article on a clinical trial where Glucose-Insulin-Potassium (GIK) therapy is administered to people having heart attacks. I will analyze whether individuals with particular genetic components are more responsive to this treatment. My volunteer work at Mount Sinai is obviously an educational experience for me. However, the work has an even more important aspect because I assisted scientists in helping people who are afflicted with genetic diseases that severely alter their quality of life. Knowing that I can help people who are ill, even if in a very small way, truly gave me a glimpse into why people pursue careers in medical research.
Over the summer on a 5 week trip, I had the unique opportunity to live with a family in Medina de Rioseco, Spain for three weeks. During that three week period, I tutored my host siblings, Maria and Mateo, in English. They were taking English classes over the summer. They had to do projects and worksheets. Several times a week, I would tutor Maria and Mateo teaching them grammar, working on reading comprehension, and teaching about American culture. Before each lesson, I would think of ways to make the lessons exciting and educational. My host siblings caught on quickly. My summer experience gave me a new perspective on bilingual education. I definitely will incorporate tutoring into the community service I perform in the future, and I will always look fondly upon my experience.
I worked with the non-profit organization, Samaritans of NYC, which is a 24-hour crisis hotline for those who are contemplating suicide. During the course of the project, my views and attitude about teenage suicide changed exponentially. I used to think that suicide was something that happened without warning. I learned that most people who commit suicide speak about it first. This fact makes suicide preventable. I realized that suicide was not just an unfortunate fact of life. Having someone there to listen at any time of the day, makes the difference. Further, confidentiality allows for free and open communication without judgment.
The project not only educated me about suicide, but it also taught me valuable skills. I learned the importance of being organized, persistent, and flexible. Gathering facts and statistics from the Assistant Director of Samaritans, Joy, required organizational skills and determination. I had to organize the meeting with the Assistant Director being mindful of everyone’s busy schedules. I emailed the Assistant Director several times to organize a time when we could interview her and learn more about Samaritans. We could not visit the site of the hotline because it is confidential, so the Assistant Director met us at school. I learned that when one has to get a job done, he or she must be flexible and solution oriented. When we found out that we could not make a site visit due to confidentiality concerns, I had to come up with an alternative solution for getting to know more about The Samaritans.
The most challenging part of the project was organizing the interview. Unfortunately, the Assistant Director had to cancel twice due to other obligations. When we finally had our meeting with the Assistant Director, we were almost at the deadline to do the site visit. Therefore, we made sure we were thorough in our questioning to be prepared for the presentation.
The most rewarding part of this project was presenting the issue of teenage suicide and our non-profit organization to our classmates. Education leads to prevention. I was gratified to know that just telling my classmates about suicide, prevention, and Samaritans, could impact the life of a classmate or the friend of a classmate.
Regrettably, I will not be able to continue with volunteer work for Samaritans because volunteers generally work on the hotline, and they must be 21 years or over. However, I would like to still focus on this social issue. I learned that multilingual resources for suicide prevention in New York City are scarce. This summer, I am traveling to Spain for a language immersion program. If I can become fluent, I might look into working with an organization that helps educate Spanish speaking people in New York City on suicide prevention.
During the Summer of 2014, I went on an incredible voyage through the British Virgin Islands. I sailed, went scuba diving, snorkeling, and learned about marine biology. By far the most gratifying component of the trip was the community service I did with children on the islands. The program was known as the Youth Empowerment Project. We were assigned to work with young children who are underprivileged. We swam with them and taught them how to paddle board. Many did not know how to swim so we provided them with swimming lessons as well. It was amazing to see their eyes light up when we arrived to spend time with them. This act inspired me to want to do more community service work with children. We also cleaned the ocean by diving for trash. The ocean water was breathtaking, and it was sad to see that it was littered with trash. I look forward to future summer community service as it truly completed my summer experience.