For this year’s Service Day, I worked with my classmates to sort a myriad of medical supplies to be sent to those in need. I’ve done a fair amount of service between this school year and the last, but I can’t quite say that any experience has matched the uniqueness of this. It was thrilling to know that an effort as small as sorting goods could make such an impact on the lives of others. My favorite aspect may have been that the process was extremely cooperative, requiring constant teamwork with the peers around me. As a result, the experience felt like both a fantastic opportunity to serve and to learn something new, and to cooperate with my classmates in a new and rare way.
Recently, I had the opportunity to take part in the People’s Climate March in Washington D.C. Despite the early hour at which I was required to wake up, the four-hour bus rides to D.C. and back, and the (fittingly) sweltering temperatures for the day, I was still enthusiastic to join the March; to me, climate change has always been one of the most important issues facing humanity. Initially, however, I was skeptical – how was a march (wherein people ironically used an excess of paper to make signs) supposed to sway our politicians? Surely one march wouldn’t convince Donald Trump (who was happily holding a rally elsewhere in the country while we flooded D.C.) of the severity of climate change. How was one march supposed to legitimately reduce the effects of climate change? It all seemed pointless to me, initially. As I began to march with the crowds, though, it became clear to me that the point of the March was not to invoke sweeping political change. As I marched, I felt swayed by the intense emotion, confidence, and energy of the crowds. Soon, I realized that the point of the March was more to unite likeminded people, to make them feel powerful, and to reinvigorate hope. Sure enough, I felt powerful and hopeful once more. Later, I noticed that my favorite musician tweeted a photo/article relating the massive turnout for the March, to his one million followers. I then realized another purpose of the March, to not only reinvigorate us, but to reinvigorate hope in people all over the world.
With YPI, I was paired with partners Alexandra Skora and Amanda Liebmann, as we each shared a common interest in helping the disabled. We ultimately decided to focus on those affected by autism, considering that Amanda was close to a family with a child with autism, and also considering that my own younger brother has autism, himself. We decided on the organization YAI, helping the development of people with autism. While we didn’t make it through to the final round, I felt that the whole experience was rather new, eye-opening, and enjoyable. I am rather grateful for the opportunity as a whole.
While I do already know much about autism, there was still much information that I was unaware of prior to the project. The project helped me to research and discover this new information, changing my attitude towards the social issue. For instance, the specific statistic that one in sixty-eight children are diagnosed with autism. Last I had checked, the number wasn’t as severe, and the circumstances of the growing “epidemic” that is autism are slowly becoming more dire to me.
Communication skills were a huge facet of the project. For example, something as simple as working with my partners – whom I weren’t extremely familiar with beforehand – both challenged and improved my communication skills. Also, I found myself interviewing someone under legitimate circumstances for the first time in my life at the site visit, building on my communication skills. I found both of these experiences to be especially challenging. Additionally, we ran into some technical difficulties only a few days before our in-class presentations, causing us to lose most of our digital presentation. This was a big challenge which we were luckily able to overcome. In the end, seeing our presentation finished in its complete state was extremely rewarding.