My favorite part of this year was taking the global education trip to Morocco this spring. While there we were able to explore the history, culture, and politics of the nation. Our trip was focused on not being the “typical tourist” endeavor, and as such we consciously avoided largely trafficked area and instead visited smaller shops. Throughout the trip we stopped at many workshops where artisans gathered to make goods, but the most memorable of these was a women’s center where women with skills taught other women in need of income (originally older women and widows, but it expanded to include younger women) how do make different foods and crafts. While at the center I was able to observe and eventually participate in the creation of couscous (which is a pasta; not a grain), the center we visited was directly responsible for the educating of dozens of women and indirectly responsible for even more though the centers they paved the way for.
I specifically loved the global education trip to Morocco because I got to form a more personal relationship with the places we visited by trying to not be a “typical tourist”; I was able to speak to people in stores in a language that wasn’t my own (something that was noticed and appreciated) and even picked up some Arabic from the experience. Also because our intent was to experience all facets of the culture I was given the opportunity to learn about and meet some people of the Amazigh culture and hear about Moroccan culture and history from a different perspective.
I went to the Climate March in Washington DC on April 29th. It was a great experience as seeing so many people are fighting against Trump’s ignorance in saving the climate. We only have one planet Earth and it is necessary to make Earth sustainable. We, as citizens, are obligated to whatever we can to prevent the climate from getting worse. And that includes opposing any political figure such as the president who is unwilling to pay any attention to the aggravating climate problems. During that particular march, I learned that as long as the people are united, we can still save our planet. This is the power of humanity.
On April 29th, a I went to Washington DC for the Climate March. I of us had to be at school at 6 o’clock in the morning in order to get to Washington at around noon. When I got to DC it was almost 90 degrees outside. There were almost 200,000 people who showed up at the march and the plan was for all of us to surround the white house. This was my first time doing a demonstration like this and it was a really empowering experience and I hope to do something like this again one day.
This summer, I had the privilege and pleasure of traveling to Peru with a group called GLA. (Global Leadership Adventures). At GLA, the main goal is to provide a summer trip where teens can help others that are less fortunate in service projects which they feel passionate about. This summer, I helped a family on the outskirts of Cuzco, Peru in this little town called Chocco. Here, over the course of two weeks, I helped the family build a full house for their guinea pig or cuyo. Over these two weeks, I had some of the best experiences of my life. I met so many new people and developed relationships with the families I helped. A normal day of service looked like the following: Every morning we woke up at 6:30 am, starting service at 7:15 or 7:30. We then worked carrying adobe bricks and making mud for the foundation of the house. Making this house was very important because guinea pigs are most families only source of protein from a food source that is cheap enough to produce at a fast rate. During our service hours each day, we would have a mid-day break, where we got to play with little kids at a school nearby. We had daily soccer games, singalongs, rap battles, and played on the swings. After this, we went back to service for a few more hours of group work.
During my time in Chocco, how I view the world was totally reversed and changed. From the point I visited Peru, my view of my surroundings were clouded by the privilege I had automatically received since birth. These privileges are simple things such as water, food, clothes, a roof over my head and an education. When I left Peru, I became much more aware of how I could help people individually and make a difference just by the small things I did with my group.
When I started the YPI project I did not know that much about the topic that I was doing of criminal justice. While doing research for my presentation I found out so many things that I never new and would have never believed were true. Some of the statistics that we found were really surprising and some I just couldn’t believe. Doing the YPI project has really made me want to do more to help this issue.
The thing that I found most challenging about the project was the presentation. I think this was hard for me because I am not a good public speaker so I don’t feel very comfortable presenting in front of a big group of people. Even though I feel this way it probably would have been cool to present in front of the whole grade.
This year, the ninth grade separated into small groups to do YPI Projects. These were just picking problems in our community, then picking charities that related to the problems, then presenting power points on them. We judged each other’s presentations and then the finalists went before us and other judges for the final presentations.
Although I didn’t make it into the finalists, I still learned a lot about the issue my team mates and I were focusing on, police brutality. While I had obviously heard of specific cases on the news, I had never really looked at the whole issue and what else it effected. This changed when my team mates and I were doing research on police brutality for our project. I feel like I have a much more well-rounded knowledge of the issue and the things it connects to now because of the YPI project.
I found it very challenging sometimes to write about some of the cases or even the issue of police brutality itself, not just because of its horribleness, but also because I have never really been a victim of police brutality. This project made me think about others and what they face, and how I must use my privilege to not close out others in need, but empower them. So I suppose that this aspect was both challenging and rewarding.
During the Hope Survey in February, I participated in helping count New York City’s homeless population. The Hope Survey corresponded to my statistics class, as it dealt with populations and variables. Some of the variables considered included location, sex, age, and military status. In my statistics class, we consider many of these variables when conducting research. I found it particularly rewarding that I was able to use the knowledge I obtained in my statistics class to better New York City by participating in the HOPE survey.
My experience with the Hope Survey was quite interesting. My group only encountered one homeless man. I realized why we were required (as part of the survey) to ask each person we encountered whether or not they were homeless. The reason was due to the fact that there are more homeless people in New York City than the stereotype of a homeless person’s appearance that is often portrayed in the media. For example, my group ran into an elderly man who I did not consider to be homeless until we asked him if he had a place to stay for the night. When he responded no, I understood that appearance means nothing regarding one’s housing status. Although this man was dressed in nice clothes and at a glance appeared to be healthy, he did not have a place to stay at night. I believe the Hope survey re-taught me a very important lesson: never judge a book by its cover.
-Reid Cunningham (2016)
In November, a group of Friends Seminary students and faculty traveled together to Washington, DC to march against police brutality and racism. We joined hundred of others who were also protesting. Reverend Al Sharpton spoke, along with the family members of those who had been killed by police officers. It was a wonderful thing to see so many people of all different races, genders, ethnicities, and ages come together to fight against injustice. I am very grateful to have been part of that experience. However, we have to continue to fight against racial injustice and cannot let it fall to the side lines.
This year I acted as the graphic designer for the spring musical. As the designer for the musical I laid out both the poster and the programs. As someone who loves design I was delighted by the opportunity to be able to have a hand in shaping the image of the show.
The poster began before spring break, with photographs of all the spellers. Then, over the break, I created a few drafts, conferring with Steve about content. By May 1st a final draft had been completed and was ready to print. I conferred with John Galayda and Jill Zenker, who also prints the school newspaper, to get the poster printed. By this time it was time to create the program.
The program is the one souvenir that people can take away from a show, which people can look at when the performance is long over to remember there experience. Given what a program can be, I wanted to create a program that was special, which did justice to show. I did my best to make the program energetic and playful, while also making it organized and clear. By conferring with Jill Zenker, I was able to get the programs printed on a card stock which made the programs feel more substantial.
As the graphic designer for the show I was able to affect the way people perceived the show before they saw it, and how they remembered it after they left. I was delighted to be given the chance to positively affect peoples perception and memories of the show.
From late June until February, I worked as a Teen Advocate at Planned Parenthood of New York City. My work there was life-changing. I entered with a passion for reproductive justice. I constantly am baffled with the lack of control women have over their own bodies, and the lack of support there is within public school systems in terms of reproductive health education. Throughout the summer I was educated about all things reproductive health-related (birth control, STIs, healthy relationships, sexuality, anatomy, etc). This knowledge allowed me to enter classrooms for after school programs in order to teach students ages 9-16 about sexual and reproductive health. I also co-lead Center Teen Nights at the various Planned Parenthood centers, in which my fellow Teen Advocates and I demystified the clinic and educated our peers on Teen Rights as well as condom usage and healthy relationship behavior.
I continue to be shocked about the attitudes towards reproductive health within our country. Reproductive rights are human rights as without them, some women are deemed less human than others. My work with PPNYC pushed me as an activist. I entered unaware of the changes I want to make within the public health system. However, I ended my time with a completely different perspective. Through peer education, advocacy, lobbying, and outreach, I helped make a difference in reproductive health, while discovering a passion for policy change. In the future, I want to help increase the number of low-cost clinics, especially in under-served areas. I want to advocate for a comprehensive four-year reproductive health education program in public schools. I want to further reduce unintended pregnancies among young women. Working as a Teen Advocate at PPNYC clarified the solutions to the toxic approaches to sexual and reproductive rights within the United States.