For service day this year the whole tenth grade went to Staten Island. To say the least, the trip was disappointing. At first it was fun, we got on buses and went down to and got to ride the Staten Island Ferry. Once we got of the ferry we had to wait for the other two buses to take us to the reserve. The first one took a while to arrive, and then we had to wait for the second one. Once we finally got to the site I was already tired. It was interesting to learn the history of Staten Island but we went all the way there to do service. Then we went on a hike before lunch. All this, end we ended up running out of mulch thirty minutes into replacing it so that concluded the service for the day.
Over the summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica and volunteer. I travelled with Rustic Pathways on their “Heart of the Jungle” program for two weeks around the area of Osa Peninsula. During the two weeks I was there, I participated in various community service projects; there was no main project, unfortunately. However, some of the volunteer work I did involved painting bathrooms at an elementary school, making and installing a cement floor for a family’s house, gardening at an elderly home, painting fences, cleaning up community playgrounds, and collecting garbage from the beaches surrounding the Pacific Ocean. Besides volunteering, we also ventured through villages and kayaked around small islands. Overall the trip was a good experience since I had never been to Costa Rica before, and not only did I enjoy what Costa Rica had to offer, but I also gave back to the community too.
Throughout my trip there were many highlights, but in particular one of my favorite parts of the trip was when my group and I cleaned up the community playgrounds. It was my decision to go on a trip where community service was involved, I could’ve chosen to go on a trip that involved no volunteer work, but I didn’t want that. What made my trip so meaningful and special to me was the volunteer work my group accomplished and completed there. When we were cleaning the community playgrounds, I felt a certain kind of gratitude and fulfillment because I still see myself as a kid and I know that kids are influenced by the tiniest influences. So, removing garbage such as an opened condom wrapper or cigarette butts made me feel better because I knew that the kids playing on these playgrounds wouldn’t have to see such images at a young age. Besides the volunteer work I did in Costa Rica, I also do panels and have participated in a documentary, “The Big Picture:Rethinking Dyslexia.” As a dyslexic I don’t want to be held back because of people who don’t understand my learning difference, so I spread the word around to other dyslexics so that they won’t let their school hold themselves back too. My life speaks through my actions, and so far my life has been pretty great.
For our YPI project we visited BRC, where we interviewed Muzzy Rosenblatt about the organization and its mission. During the interview I got a more in-depth explanation on the causes of homelessness and its effects, and in doing so I realized that homelessness is far less avoidable than it seems, and I learned that normal sobering doesn’t always help people get out of homelessness, rather it may just create a cycle where they just end up where they started again.
YPI Service Learning Reflection
Before my group started researching illiteracy and went to Reading Partners, I did not think that illiteracy was an important issue at all. I thought that we were not going to be taken seriously as there are many other more saddening and personally effecting issues. However, as I begun to study the issue I realized that illiteracy is a very striking and prominent issue in the world today. Not only is it a social issue around the world, but as I found out it was very prominent in New York. I did not like the fact that the city I live in had low literacy rates compared to other cities across the U.S. This made me really try to win the $5,000 grant, whereas before I did not have motivation to do well and put in a good amount of effort into this project.
I found that a big challenge during the project was working together in groups. It was hard to bring the group back together after we had disagreed on something important. We realized that we had to work together if we wanted to have a successful presentation and show that our social issue is important. It was also challenging in a big group to have everybody pay attention. There were often side conversations which distracted the group from working as a team, and we could have done better if we had focused more often.
Over the course of the project I definitely became more engaged in the topic as I learned about it. I realized that this wasn’t just a regular assignment and that I actually wanted to contribute to Reading Partners. I learned how many problems stemmed from the one issue of illiteracy and how they could be fixed if children were taught how to read. This solution seemed really simple and I think that through the help of Reading Partners so many of New York’s problems can be solved and the future of many kids can become more promising. Over the course of the project I developed presentation making skills. I was also able to significantly improve my connection with the audience from the first presentation to the last presentation. This project made my group learn how to work as a team. We all are very unique people with strong personalities and opinions and we had a few disagreements. By the second presentation we were able to unite because we realized it was the only way to achieve our mutual goal.
The aspect that I found most challenging was learning how to make eye contact and connect with the people who we were presenting to. Lack of eye contact was the fault in our first presentation and it caused us to get a bad grade. By the second presentation our communication became one of our strong points and enabled us to move on to the final round. I found the site visit to be the most rewarding because it gave me the satisfaction of seeing Reading Partners at work and because it united us together as a team. I would say that the site project was the point where we realized that the cause that we were fighting for was more important than our bickering. It was really interesting to see how efficient and effective the curriculum of reading partners was and how the determined the leaders were to make a difference in the lives of these kids. Even though we didn’t win the 5,000 dollar grant towards Reading Partners we realised that we could still remain engaged with the organization. We have decided to have a book drive at school so that we can supply Reading Partners with much needed books. Overall, I think the YPI service was a great project that taught me the importance of literacy and how to work in a group with other people.
For this years 9th grade community service project we participated in the Youth Philanthropist Initiative. My group’s social issue was HIV/Aids, so we choose Housing Works. Before we began our project, we had a good idea of what HIV/Aids were and that this was a social issue in NYC because it effected and effects many people. After we began our research, we discovered many new things about HIV/Aids and decided that Housing Works, out of other nonprofit options, was the organization we felt was best for adressing this social issue. Before our organized visit to Housing Works, we knew briefly what Housing Works was and their cause, but after the visit we learned that there was much more to the organization. After our visit, we learned about the Housing Works community, the shelters, the shops, the employees, and more. Representing Housing Works was definitely a big deal, for our group really wanted to present them as best as we could, because our visit really informed us that Housing Works was true and dedicated to HIV/Aids. Before investing in our project, we were really clueless about our social issue, and this project definitely opened our eyes about HIV/Aids and the effect it has on NYC as a community.
By participating in this project, my skills in communication, research, and partnership have definitely improved on a large scale. In order to have had success in our project, our group needed to agree on the social issue we were presenting, the orgranization that coresponded with our social issue, and we had to moniter that we all were participating equally and communicating with one another. After setting up the base of our project, a challange we faced was creating a date to meet with the employees of Housing Works, since all members of our group had to be present. For our presentation, we all worked hard together to collect information, fact check, organize the information, and present the information correctly. In the future, when coming across initiatives like this, I now feel prepaired in terms of communication, paternship, and research.
Ack: I worked alone on this.
As part of our History course this year we did a project designed to allow us to help to solve some of the most prominent issues in our community today. We had to create a presentation to promote a non-profit of our choice that helped solve a social issue in our community and then present our presentation in front of a panel of judges to compete for a 5000 dollar grant for our non-profit. The competition was organized by an organization called YPI or the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative. The non-profit that my group chose was called Hot Bread Kitchen, an organization that helps low income minority immigrant women get proper job training to thrive in the culinary industry.
My group was originally drawn to this non-profit because all of the people in our group had recent immigrant ancestors in the US and we felt that the issue was underrepresented when compared to the other social issues being chosen for the project. We visited our non-profit and we found it to be very nice but also in need of the 5000 dollars. Creating our presentation wasn’t a challenge and going into the finals my group was nervous but I wasn’t. We presented well but in the end another group got the grant but very deservingly. The whole project has made me think more about the social issues in our community and how people are trying to help.
What I found most challenging was getting our point across to the audience. We had so much information we wanted to give that we couldn’t decide what to cut to make our presentation shorter but still include as much information as was required. To compensate we chose places where we were redundant and took out those slides. We also made the sentences on our slides shorter so that we could say more without repeating what was on the slides. Lastly we tried to make the issue more personal by demonstrating how our charity’s values were similar to those of Friends Seminary.
What I found most rewarding was the transformation of our project. At the beginning of the year I had no idea what charity I would want to donate. Through our process of choosing what values were important to us it made it easier to figure out at least what type of organization I wanted to help, one concerned with the safety of children. When we finally found the charity Women In Need it seemed easier to finish the project.
The social issue that my group decided to research was domestic violence, because it related to all of the issues that my group members wanted to work on. The organization we chose was Sanctuary for Families, because it covered all of the aspects of domestic violence my group was concerned with. When the project first started in early February, I was not too heavily invested in it. This was because the end of April seemed very far away, and because I had not learned much about my social issue yet. However, over the course of the project, I definitely cared about domestic violence more and felt like winning the $5,000 prize would be great to raise awareness about it. However, I believed that even if we didn’t win, it was worth it to make a good presentation to raise awareness about it regardless. Even though in the end my group did not win, I was happy with the result because I feel like my group and I educated the people watching us about our social issue.
There were many aspects of the project which were challenging, like organizing a site visit and splitting the work evenly between everyone. However, the most challenging part of the project was definitely speaking about the issue and making sure people knew that you cared about your issue. It was easy to know what to say for each slide, but it was much more difficult to talk about your social issue and make everyone believe that your issue was the most important. I had to practice all of my slides a lot in front of my parents and group members in order to feel confident that people watching my presentation would feel just as engaged about the social issue as I was. During the final presentation I felt that I had done a good job practicing and conveyed my opinions about the issue well to everyone watching.