Teach for India

For the past two weeks, I have been volunteering with Teach for India at the Kilbil School in Janwadi, a low-income neighborhood in the city of Pune in Maharashtra. I chose to volunteer with Teach for India because I had heard and read about many of their nation-wide efforts to give an excellent education to as many children as possible and to end educational inequity in India. TFI is currently working with nearly 23,000 students across India. TFI has an extremely high impact on the schools and students it works with. Teach for India strives to change the fact that four percent of children in India never start school, that fifty-eight percent do not finish primary school, and that ninety percent do not finish school, thereby significantly limiting career options and earning capabilities.

I decided to get involved in this project because I wanted to help (in whatever small way that I could) bridge the gap between those that are already receiving a solid education and those that are not getting the education that they deserve. Teach for India has been intervening at the Kilbil School with the current sixth grade (150 students) for about five years.In my two weeks at Kilbil, I helped one of the three fellows from Teach for India teach his fifty sixth graders about writing, reading, and algebra.

Party on my last day...

Party on my last day…

The day that I started volunteering at Kilbil, the students were given the prompt for a balanced essay, “Should uniforms be compulsory at school? Why or why not?” and were also told that if the essays were good enough, they would be given to the adminstration to consider. This was a question that had never crossed the students mind, they saw no other alternative to wearing a uniform. This piece gave the students a voice, that they otherwise would not have had on this issue, as students are most frequently looked to as inferior people who can be beat, yelled at, who are meant to memorize thousands of facts without giving any true thought to them, and whose somewhat controversial thoughts are not worthy of recognition by several teachers and the adminstration (this is most definitely not the case in the TFI grade). Obviously at Friends we have quite a lot of freedom with what we wear and are able to express ourselves through our clothing, so it was interesting to me that the students were having so much trouble finding one reason that not having uniform s be complusory would be a better option for them (other than the extremely valid reason of: the cost of uniforms is too much– 800INR, -$13 a year–and places a lot of stress on the Kilbil parents). It eventually came to the girls, “We could wear pretty dresses everyday!”, but it took much longer (and many thought-provoking questions) for the boys to think of why it might be beneficial not to have uniforms at school. Not only did this piece teach the kids to open their eyes to various alternatives to their way of living, but it also opened mine. Something I thought I was against, having uniforms, could actually be beneficial (I’m not suggesting we get uniforms at Friends). Uniforms give students a sense of identity, comfort, and belonging. Having a uniform eliminates the inate concerns some kids have about what to wear each day. Having a uniform might even set up a more effective learning environment for younger students who have more trouble focusing than older students. This was just one of the many things I learned while teaching at Kilbil.

On our way to P.E. by the mountains.

On our way to P.E. by the mountains.

Teach for India has not just established a dream, but many amazing ways to achieve that dream with the help of fellows, alumni, volunteers, and alternative ways of teaching to those of the extremely traditional schools in India.

Shifa and Mohini

If you are interested in learning more about Teach for India, click here http://www.teachforindia.org/?home=2.


Painting Murals for the Spring Fair at Friends

Recently, I worked to paint a mural for the Spring Fair at Friends. It was really interesting to take part an event to special to community. The theme was sports, so I helped to paint footballs, baseballs, tennis rackets, and other sports related things.

It was amazing to see the main lobby transformed, once the mural had been painted. After hours of working, we had made something beautiful. I hope the kids who attended the Spring Fair enjoyed seeing it!

Altana’s Experience with the Girl Rising Event.


After becoming involved with the students at the Kisyoro school in Ruhiira, Uganda, I was inspired to become involved with the Girl Rising screening event at Friends. What inspired me to do this was actually interacting with these girls through our class service learning project. They have so much ambition to get an education, even though they face a lot of obstacles.

At the Girl Rising screening event, I facilitated the signing of a banner to be sent to the girls at the Kisyoro School. People who attended the screening could write personalized messages encouraging these girls to follow their dreams in becoming nurses, parliamentarians, doctors, and teachers. It was amazing to see some people write up to ten messages, all to inspire girls they had never met and most likely would never meet.

Ben Irving’s Service Reflection

The community service that I completed this year was personally heart-warming to know what kinds of things my service effected.  My job was to take two bolts and two screws from two huge sacks of them and place them into a small bag.  Once I had fifty of those bags, I placed them into a large bag and continued my work.  I was working for Getting Tools to City Schools, an outreach organization that did what it’s title entailed.  The bolts and screws that I was sorting were for binders that this organization was making to give out to kids in need of school supplies.  Although my community service was completed at home, and less social, the service was very fulfilling in that kids who can’t afford these materials can now have a binder or a backpack etc.  I have always been able to have these materials and it is sad that so many cannot.  I completed 100 large bags of these little bags, and was rewarded with 20 hours of community service, but since my work was so spread out, and since the work was for such a meaningful cause, I did not feel like it was work at all, and it became somewhat of a hobby.  I hope these kids can now have a better education now that Getting Tools to City Schools is providing them with valuable materials for their education.

Chuma’s Service Reflection

One of the service opportunities I participated in this year was helping out with the school’s mentoring program for the Lower and Middle Schoolers. I helped Cynthia as a chaperone on the trip to Chelsea Piers’ bowling alley and I was able to interact with the younger kids who were on the trip. The reason why I signed up for the opportunity is because I really support the mentoring program at Friends. I think it is a great learning experience for both the mentor as well as the child being mentored. The mentor learns how to exhibit their leadership skills and how to interact and speak to those younger than their individual selves. The child observing and learning from their mentor(s) gain invaluable skills just from being in the presence of someone older than them. This also includes leadership skills, as well as any “tips” or information their mentor(s) may give them when it comes to school and/or life in general. It also creates relationships that probably were not very likely to start due to the different ages. From being a chaperone on this trip, I got from it good memories and new friends. Hopefully, the younger party feels the same way.

Afemi’s Service Reflection

I saw Girl Rising at the screening last month. I found the stories compelling and inspirational. I realized that, as a girl, I have taken my education for granted, and, armed with the power of an education, I can do whatever I set my mind to. A lot of the girls in the stories documented in the movie were expected to be simply wives or mothers and focus only on their duties as wives and mothers. It saddened me that they were restricted to their domestic responsibilities and forced to observe an ‘only-speak-when-spoken-to’ policy. If women like Gloria Steinem had not been educated and had only spoken when they were spoken to, I would fade into the background and my voice would be lost completely. Thanks to my education and the work of the women who came before me, I have been blessed with the opportunity to share my voice, and do so with eloquence.

Lia’s Service Reflection

This past November, after hurricane Sandy, I went to city hall to volunteer to bring food and medicine to those who needed it.  We were sent to apartment buildings that had been devastated by the storm.  The ground floors were completely flooded and all the power was out.  We knocked on people’s doors and asked of they were alright and if they needed any prescriptions filled immediately.  Everyone who answered seemed afraid because of what had happened only two days before, and also wary because we were just teenagers.  Some peoples houses were torn apart and everything they owned was piled up in the gutter which was salary to see because it showed just how horrifying natural disasters can be.

Venice’s Service Reflection

Park Day 2

As a part of my service this year I took photos of It’s my Park Day in Stuyvesant Park, a park that we are all very familiar with and is important to the Friends Seminary Community. It was nice to see everyone who attended working hard and actually finishing the work that we had to do well ahead of schedule.  Everyone was happy to work together to be as efficient as possible.  One of the photos is attached.


Jamie’s Service Reflection

For the four productions and two dress rehearsals of Once On This Island I operated the spotlight from the lighting booth with David Perry and the light/sound crew from the Vineyard. Being behind the scenes of a school production was a really interesting experience; I didn’t fully realize the amount of work that goes into our school’s plays and recitals until I was a part of the crew, and not a performer. I enjoyed being a part of the tech crew behind the show because I enjoy live theater, and this was a great way to have some fun while also earning service hours. By the end of the four performances I knew most of the lines by heart.

It was nice to be a part of Jennifer Hayes’s last show at Friends, and to witness the procession that followed the final performance of the musical. I even got a flower. I also enjoyed hanging out with the cast backstage in between performances, because they were quite a raucous bunch. I will undoubtedly do the same job for next year’s musical.

Matt’s Service Reflection

For my in-school community service requirement I served as a peer-tutor working in the Academic Center. My initial priority was to focus on 9th grade geometry with my peer-tutee, however this shifted to all his courses, English, Spanish, History, and Physics. We coordinated to meet every Thursday 1st period with our first session conducted in October and our last in June. For the majority of our 45 minute periods we would work collectively on his homework while going over areas of the subject that were difficult. In many cases I would give practice problems for him to try on his own. In some instances we would spend the majority of the meeting preparing for an upcoming quiz or test.

I spent 45 minutes every week with my peer-tutee for 7 months, and I have enjoyed every moment of it. Not only was I able to help someone excel further in school, but I was also able to make a new friend. It is also a great feeling to see someone improve their ability as a student, and seeing your own impact on the student is fantastic. Our sessions were also quite entertaining while holding a level of seriousness. Jokes were tossed around here and there however, and the moments before and after our meetings were usually good times for bonding as friends. Serving as a peer-tutor was a very rewarding experience, and one I will  always cherish. I hope to continue my role as a peer-tutor in further years to further my impact on others and to continue to give back to the community.

-Matt Bialosky