Annie Saenger’s Service Reflection: DRA

On February 22nd, seniors Elise Ferguson and Emily Margolis headed the Friends Seminary branch of Dancers Responding to AIDS.  With faculty advisor Barry Blumenfield and choreographers and dancers in kindergarten through twelfth grade, Friends Seminary students put up a dance concert benefit to raise money for Dancers Responding to AIDS (DRA).  The organization itself is a part of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and funds raised by DRA go through Broadway Cares to AIDS and family-service organizations all over the country and to The Actors Fund.  DRA’s mission statement focuses on how individuals can contribute to a nationwide fund for treatment (one aspect of the mission is “to mobilize the unique abilities within the entertainment industry to mitigate the suffering of individuals affected by HIV/AIDS” –  However, DRA’s mission also includes spreading awareness and understanding of both HIV/AIDS itself and the entertainment industry’s ability to make a difference.  My personal experience with DRA involved rehearsing for a piece set to “Figure 8” by Ellie Goulding.  I rehearsed the piece with small groups of people and slowly learned the ever-shifting choreography, which was shaped by many of the dancers themselves.  At some point there was an additional DRA bake sale.  There were longer rehearsals immediately before the performance, and finally the performance itself.

Before this service experience, I had volunteered as a teaching aid in a lower-school classroom and as a peer tutor (other positions as well, but not ones relevant to this realization).  These service opportunities had always resulted in a surprising learning experience for me  As a peer tutor, I improved my own learning strategies and my skills in explaining concepts, and I was also able to reflect on what my own school experience had been like when I was the age of my tutee.  It was gratifying to get results in improvements in my tutees’ grades, and the experience made me realize that community service could help me as much as it could the recipient – not just on a large, moral compass/understanding-of-the-world way, but in a concrete, immediate result.  Alternately, working as a teaching aid introduced me to a crop of kids who had no judgements of the world and who decided that I was wonderful, and the reaction whenever I came into the room made me want to become a teacher.  This experience showed me that service could bring joy – not from the knowledge of completing a good deed, but from the action itself.  Both of these experiences had taught me about community service and its potentially positive results for me, but the experiences had still stemmed from the motivation of service rather than the motivation of doing the activity.  However, this year’s experience with DRA showed me that service can come from different motivations.  At the beginning, I hadn’t been averse to earning service credit for DRA, but my main motivation had been to rekindle my love of dance and learn some new styles.  I had wanted to improve my tap skills by participating in a group tap piece, and that was about it.  And I got so much joy from the experience, both from the dancing and from the service aspect, and I was able to find the connections and overlap between the two categories.

Michael’s Service Reflection


I volunteered with Friends students in Staten Island during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The destruction in the area where we volunteered was astounding. The whole community was in shambles. But even with the concerted effort of roughly 60 volunteers from the Friends Seminary community, it still looked the same when we left 7 hours later.
The images I remember from my work there lead me to the conclusion that everyone must be active in their community. Every person owes it to their community to work on making it a better place, no matter how hard it may be. And wether or not the efforts of an individual are seen by everyone, they are felt by someone. My group could not even finish demolishing one house, but the elderly man who lived there would have never been able to do what we did. The work we saved him was not visible on the outside, but I could see the appreciation on his face. And if all everyone did was help one person, the impact would be felt by everyone.


Kira’s Service Reflection

For the past five months, I have been serving on the Robin Hood Foundation Teen Council. The Robin Hood Foundation works to fund and support organizations that strive to eradicate poverty within New York City. Many of these organizations include City Harvest, Program for the Survivors of Torture, and BRC. Robin Hood is the largest organizations that fights poverty in New York City. In the past 25 years, it has given away over 1 billion dollars in order to support low-income New Yorkers. The Teen Council at Robin Hood works to educate teenagers within New York City about the organization, poverty within New York, and other organizations Robin Hood supports. Each meeting, there is a different speaker or topic, in order for high schoolers to be educated about different issues relating to poverty.

Working with the Teen Council has been a truly influential experience for me. I began very unsure of whether I would be interested or not. However, as I learned about different groups I realized that poverty within New York City is not simply food pantries and homeless shelters. I was very narrow minded before. When the Program for the Survivors of Torture spoke to us in March, the head of social work described the countless needs for someone who is in poverty in New York. It is not just a home or food, but  for many people, it is necessary to have legal support, a mental health professional, a job, and physical health care. He talked about the need for hope within the city. I came out of that Teen Council meeting in awe with not only how fortunate I am, but also with how much there is to think about when eradicating poverty. By funding so many organizations that cover so many different issues, Robin Hood creates sustainable change. In a city where it is easy to think that poverty is too large of an issue to rid of, Robin Hood provides a bit of hope. This organization has allowed me to realize how passionate I am about issues relating to poverty, and allowed me to ask questions about certain systems that could put people in poverty around me. I am extremely excited to be on the Teen Council next year.


429509_10151362238149203_944566681_nOur second meeting–We discussed and wrote down what we associate with poverty in NYC.

Franscis’s Summer of Service Reflection

Hi everyone, I’m Franscis Balken, in the tenth grade, and over this past summer I went to Jordan, in the Middle East, with an experiential education course called Where There Be Dragons. Where There Be Dragons focuses on deep immersion into strikingly different physical and cultural landscapes, combining the best in experiential education, travel, service learning, and physically and intellectually challenging experiences. During our time in Jordan, we focused our service on one organization, based out of Amman, called The Life Maker Society or in Arabic saunaiya al-hia al-Hearia. The Life Maker Society works to improve the lives of less fortunate Jordanians. Life Makers aims at the promotion of youth energies and calling everybody to work together with the firm faith stemming from our values and hoping in goodness of the world and hereafter. The Life Maker Society has many programs and events to give food, clothing, money, and support to people all over Jordan. Life Makers created the Collecting Clothes Croject where they distribute over 45,000 bags of clothing all over Jordan. Also, during Ramadan, Life Makers packaged and distributed Ramadan packages to less fortunate Jordanian families. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar in which Muslims take the time to make peace with those who have wronged and to reevaluate their lives by refraining from food, drink, and all evil actions, thoughts, and words. Another thing Life Makers has created are empty cans with coin slots for sale in which all proceeds from the cans are used for buying basic food items for needy families. While perusing the rows of canned goods available at any supermarket, shoppers this Ramadan can put some of their money towards a charitable cause by buying a can of “nothing”.

While we were in Jordan, we helped the Life Maker Society package and distribute Ramadan packages. We put all the necessary food items (rice, sugar, oil, noodles, beans, soup, and lentils) into bags that would then go to families all over Jordan. We spent multiple hours over many days either measuring out the amounts of rice, lentils, and sugar, putting all the items into bags, or separating and moving the bags into different locations depending on which homes they were going to. After that was done, we went with group members from Life Makers to different areas and regions of Jordan to distribute these packages. Most of these places were very rural with little influence from the West. The families lived in simple homes with very little to survive off of. All of the families were so grateful and really needed everything that we were giving them. Life Makers goes to great measures to make sure the families who are getting these supplies truly need them, and that they can help as many people as they can. It was astonishing to me how grateful and appreciative everyone was of each bit of support they got. By the time we left each house I was bombarded with at least twenty “thank yous!” From this experience, which I was so fortunate to experience, I took away how important it is to give your support in even the slightest of ways. Just by taking that extra time to check over all the bags and make sure that each one had all the items and was presented in a nice way makes all the difference to families. It is so important to me to give to people who need it and it makes me truly happy when I see how happy they are.

Photos below:

Me and two other group members packing Ramadan packages.

 Some of the Ramadan cans in which all prophets go towards buying necessary items for less-fortunate Jordanian families.