This past fall, I spent a semester in Colorado at HMI. An important part of HMI’s emphasis on outdoor education is teaching us the LNT principles and how to reduce our impact while hiking and living in the outdoors. During one of our 18 day backpacking trips, we volunteered with the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (CFI). CFI works to reduce the impact of human foot traffic on the Colorado Fourteeners by building trails and markers to these trails. For 3 days, we base camped with CFI and helped them build the trail up Mt. Huron. We worked together to carry boulders using a net and chop down dead trees. We also dug massive holes in the woods so that we could put the dirt from those holes onto the trail, to make the dirt more firmly packed and thus reduce the impact of runoff during storms. This experience was impactful, as I learned about the hard work it takes to maintain trails. Through downpours, wind, and thunder, we kept working to preserve this trail. This experience made me grateful to initiatives like CFI, for without their work, many trails wouldn’t exist.
At the end of August I went to Trinidad Tobago with the girls and boys varsity soccer teams. The first couple days were spent playing soccer games against the girls teams in Tobago. This was a great learning experience as many of the girls were very skillful. On the third day we went to a soccer field and practiced with kids of many age ranges living in Tobago. Unfortunately I was injured and unable to play, so I helped organize the soccer gear that was going to be donated to the kids. I helped many of the kids find their sizes in cleats and jerseys. It was great to see how happy they were when they saw all the new soccer gear especially since some of them had very worn down gear. Overall this was a great learning experience.
This year for service day, I visited AFYA, and organization that donates medical supplies to countries that are economically struggling. Because of their lack of government revenue, these countries are unable to supply themselves with the proper supplies which countries like the United States and Britain have access to. While at the organization, I sorted medical supplies by its type (bandages in one bag, syringes in another, etc) to be shipped of to hospitals and homes in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Earlier, I volunteered to assist the physical education department. I got to interact with a class of first and fifth graders and help them organize their game of kickball. I also was able to help set up a dodgeball game for a third grade class. This was a really interesting experience because I got to spend time with lower schoolers and talk to them.
For service day, the tenth grade traveled to Westchester to volunteer for an organization called AFYA. We went to AFYA’s wear house and helped other volunteers sort medical materials that were to be sent to Puerto Rico for hurricane relief. We sorted materials that were deemed useless by the US medical standard (though they still would greatly benefit those in desperate need) and packaged them into ziplock bags. We also labeled these bags with the name and expiration dates of the materials they contained. This experience was made especially meaningful when AFYA’s coordinator reminded us that our hands would be the last ones touching the materials before they were to be used in hospitals to provide relief.
This May I volunteered for Earth Matter, a non-profit that composts all of Governor’s Island’s organic waste. Our duties were to inform people where to throw their waste, either in recycling, compost, or trash, and to educate them such that in the future they know where to throw their waste. The event we volunteered at was Holi, the Hindu spring festival in which people throw colored powder on each other. At the festival, I was able to experience a rich culture that I had never been exposed to, while at the same time helping the environment by increasing the amount of composted materials, and decreasing waste produced. This service opportunity was a very enlightening experience.
This year, I volunteered at Gallop NYC, which is a non-profit organization in which children with special needs receive therapeutic horseback riding. The horses can be used for physical therapy if someone has a physical disability, or they are used to help children learn how to ride the horse (steering, trotting, etc.) I have worked with multiple children on the Autism Spectrum, those with ADHD and those with CP (Cerebral Palsy). This is my second year working at this organization, and I have had a positive experience this year.
In the February of this year I decided to attend the Chinese Lunar New Year Festival. This year is the year of the rooster. The festival was hosted at the Golden Unicorn restaurant in Chinatown. I first had to fold and organize the programs. What made the experience even better is that some of my friends attended as well. My job was to help a Korean Calligrapher. I had to insert the paper she wrote on in these black frames. Despite the fact she couldn’t speak English, she was very kind and reminded me of my own grandmother. As the festival progressed, the food was prepared and it was very delicious. Towards the end of the festival several workers at the restaurant were all under a Chinese dragon costume. There was loud drums and confetti was spread throughout the whole room.
Advisor: Derek Reid
This year, I danced for the fourth time in the annual Friends Seminary Dancer’s Responding to AIDS concert. Being able to dance this final time as a high school senior, performing a solo I choreographed in tribute to my late grandmother Carmen, was extraordinarily rewarding and special. I have loved dance ever since being a part of a gymnastics team and competing at a high level throughout middle school, and having the opportunity to continue to take the dance I had learned as a gymnast and perform for my peers and teachers always meant so much to me. This year, being involved in fund-raising for this amazing cause once again and doing so through one of my passions, dance, was an incredible experience. Being able to express my love and appreciation for my grandmother through my dance while at the same time contributing to such an important cause made this service experience the most rewarding and meaningful for me to date. I will miss being a part of this incredible concert in the years to come after my graduation, but I know that I will be back to visit and watch my peers continue this incredible Friends Seminary service tradition.
This fall, I participated in a walk to end breast cancer in the Battery Park area. The walk was hosted by Lionheart, a charity that is a separate entity from Susan G. Komen. The charity was started by my aunt Kathleen Van Rijn after her battle with breast cancer over a decade ago. Originally, she started the group as a team that was a part of the Komen Cancer research network. When the Komen charity revoked its support of planned parenthood and began decreasing specificity of which research centers their money was going to, my aunt began to re-evaluate het ties to the charity.
Ultimately, she turned Lionheart into its own independent group and partnered with the Smillow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven. For the walk, I had to register on the charity website and then connect with family members and ask them to sponsor me. We then walked several miles from the Battery Park area to around Union Square. The walk was a great chance to talk to breast cancer survivors and learn about the experience of going through breast cancer. Since everyone on the walk was wearing their Lionheart t-shirts, we were able to teach others about the charity and why we were walking. The walk also helped me raise over $300 dollars to support the next generation of breast cancer research. I strongly urge all Friends students to check out Lionheart at http://lionheart.kintera.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=1154028
And get involved in their walks or swimming lap-a-thons.