This winter, I volunteered to help out with the Annual Three Kings day Parade run by the Museo Del Barrio. I was a sign holder in the parade, and helped guide a group of school children through the parade and keep them organized. I enjoyed doing this because I got to experience part of a culture that I know little about, and because it also helped with a celebration of culture and community. I was happy that I could have fun while I fulfilled a large part of my service requirement. I recommend that anyone who is in any way interested in doing this next year diffidently participate.
We know that there are some things we can’t do on our own. We know that there are some things we do better together. -Barack Obama
I really identified with this suggested quote in relation to the rally to stop the keystone pipeline in washington that I attended. While in washington many people were holding signs for the same cause: ecological preservation. While they may have had different views on what it means to protect the environment, i.e. using nuclear power, not using nuclear power, protecting rainforest, investing in solar energy etc. Any individual demonstration that represented any one of these very specific ideas would have little to no impact on the whether ecological legislation was considered. In order to have any effect on the general cause they commonly believed in, despite any differences they may have had, these groups united for this one purpose, which gained a lot more publicity and meaning because it was a common cause supported by so many people. Some things we can only do together. It’s not simply that they are better done when they are done cooperatively but there is no chance of any progress without cooperation and unification.
This brief quote also points to an important feature of service, which is that the best service is effective service. Any individual’s actions are dwarfed by the problem if the effort is not organized and efficient. And the workgroup can add up to more than the sum of all individuals’ actions. This means service it’s not a burden on the shoulders of a small group, and instead it is a duty that belongs to everyone and by applying that standard we can collectively create a far larger impact.
In March I attended the Ban the Bag Conference sponsored by the Green School Alliance and hosted by Hewitt. The aim of this conference, which included many high schools all around the city, was to raise awareness about the harm that plastic bags are doing to our environment and to try and create a movement in New York City to ban the use of plastic bags. At the conference we watched a documentary, Bag It, that outlined how plastics have changed our lives, how they are causing serious environmental damage, and how they are using up nonrenewable resources. There was also a panel of environmentalists and local politicians who were committed to pass legislation that would either prohibit the use of plastic bags in all retail stores or place a tax on all plastic bags used. In other cities that implemented a plastic bag tax there was a sharp decrease in the number of plastic bags used per year. To see a complete list of countries and cities with some sort of ban or fee on plastic bags, clink on this LINK for the latest information.
I enjoyed going to this conference because it made me feel like students could really start a movement that would benefit the city in the future. The panelists there stressed how much of a voice we had, even if we had thought that we could never make an impact or help pass a piece of legislation. I had considered myself environmentally conscious beforehand, but learning about the plastic bag problem showed me that really there were easy changes that I could make in my life that would make the world a better place. At the conference I realized that on a large scale these changes could help reverse the damage humans have already done to the environment. I hope that the plastic bag ban does get passed in New York City and in other places across America.
The peer tutoring system at Friends allows students who are having trouble in a certain subject get extra help from a fellow student. Peer tutoring usually occurs once a week during a shared free period.
In the ninth grade when I was struggling with physics I requested a peer tutor. Not only was she extremely helpful and amazing at explaining difficult concepts, but the tutoring time also served as a chance to bond and we soon became good friends. My former experience inspired me to become a peer tutor and when a ninth grader in my math class explained to me the difficult time he was having in history class, I jumped at the chance to peer tutor and recreate my past experience. I quickly learned peer tutoring could be very difficult. I had to push myself to explain historical events in different ways, I had to teach my tutee to write clearer sentences and help him construct body paragraphs and theses. I found I would second-guess myself when I told him things like specific products that were traded in the classical era or the practices of a certain religion. I was scared that I would accidentally give my tutee the wrong information and he would receive a lower mark on a test or a paper because of me. Despite the challenging moments, peer tutoring has proved extremely rewarding. I’ll never forget my tutee running up to me in the hall, beaming, to say he got an A on a recent test. Through being a peer tutor, not only have I been able to reaffirm my understanding of things in history, improve my writing skills and bond with my peer tutee, but I have also learned how incredibly gratifying it is to teach and to see someone improve.
My name is Julia Rosenbaum. I’m in tenth grade and this past summer, I had the honor of tutoring for a program funded by the Jewish Community Center, located in a public school on 97th between Amsterdam and Columbus. The program was designed for children who needed extra help with their studies but did not have the money to do so. I spent five weeks helping a child going into third grade with literacy and math. Her name was Anayeli, and she was a wonderful student.
Every day that we met, I helped her complete pages in her workbooks. We would start by reviewing reading comprehension activities where she was required to read a passage, understand it, and then reflect on it by answering multiple-choice questions. Sometimes this was difficult for her because not all of the questions were based on facts that were mentioned in the text. Some of them asked about the main ideas of the passage or the meaning of fact versus opinion.
Once we had done a substantial amount of work, we would move on to her writing book. This was one of her weakest areas because it was increasingly difficult for her to be creative and formulate full sentences. For example, when the question would ask her to write about school or favorite foods, she wouldn’t know how to devise a complete answer. Throughout the five weeks, I encouraged her to spend extra time thinking about or outlining ideas, and then formally writing them in sentences when she was ready.
Math was her greatest strength, and I enjoyed watching her answer problems quickly and coherently. Yet, when she was quizzed on these topics, she didn’t perform as well. The especially stressful environment of an assessment made her forget the information that she had practiced for so long. Luckily, I could relate to this because of my past experience, and I was able to advise her on how to take tests and quizzes in the future.
When she didn’t understand something, I would teach her the concept until she felt comfortable about it and could do it on her own. She was a very fast and cooperative learner and would usually be able to do her work perfectly once explained. I took this photo of her after she had just figured out a small metaphor used in a reading comprehension problem. Even though it took a while for her to grasp the meaning, I was exceedingly proud of her when she did.
I also got the opportunity to tutor a six-year-old boy, who is showed in this picture, for one day in literacy and math. After having such an obliging and mature girl as Anayeli to teach, it was increasingly strenuous to teach a younger, more reluctant child. He was very intelligent, but he didn’t want to focus or work on the activities planned. It was also a continuous struggle for me to find the line between friend and teacher when I tried to get him to complete his work. I didn’t want to become too strict, but I also did not want him to think he could take advantage of my leniency.
Overall, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed and took away from participating in this program. Being able to understand the way Anayeli’s mind functioned and what her strengths and weaknesses were helped me find the best ways that I could teach her the things that she struggled with most. When I knew that she understood something because of the way I taught it to her, it made me very happy, and it became the most rewarding part. The fact that these kids could have a great amount of academic potential like she has, but might not be able to express it because of their financial positions was one of the biggest reasons I chose to spend my summer tutoring. Knowing that I can help someone’s learning process so much by merely teaching one concepts that are simple to me is an amazing thing. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my summer any other way, and it encouraged me to do more service not only for our school but also to give back to the community.