This year for my out of school service, I volunteered at my dance school, the 92Y, as an assistant teacher for the Junior Performance Team. Throughout the year the class learns multiple dances, which are then performed at the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, a community center in New York City.
When I first started class, I was very excited to get started. It was a very large class of kids along with some older kids our teacher called, including myself, ‘Big Kids.’ These older kids were in charge of learning and remembering the dances as well as helping out the little kids in the class. It was really nice to be a part of a group of dancers than simply being myself with all the younger dancers. While we learned the dances, we also learned how to work as a team in small groups creating combos to share with the rest of the class. We even had one dance that was solely student choreographed and taught and another dance that was choreographed by our class in small groups and then put together into one full dance.
One of my favorite parts of this experience was helping out one of the students who required extra help during classes. I have often considered going into education and becoming a teacher. Getting to work with younger kids as well as kids requiring extra help was a wonderful opportunity to learn and understand how to help kids out in an educational and fun way while learning new dances.
In April, our dance teachers, Megan Doyle, Director of the 92Y School of Dance, and Courtney Laine Self, had announced they would be showing a musical they had been working on for a few months over the year, over the weekend. That night, after class, I went to see the show. It was entitled MAKING BOOKJACKET. The musical was a futuristic dance inspired by feelings circulating the country around the election year. I was very excited to see my teachers’ work and loved the inspiration they used to create their musical.
For the past few months, I have been volunteering at Reading Partners every Tuesday. I help a girl in second grade at PS 188 with her reading and comprehension skills so that she can catch up to her grade’s reading level. We go through guided lessons each session, in which we learn sounds, vocabulary, spelling, and reading comprehension skills. I have seen a lot of progress in the girl I am tutoring, and she is a few lessons away from moving up to the next reading level.
It has been a very meaningful experience to tutor with Reading Partners, as I have been a able to build a relationship with the child I tutor, while helping her grow as a reader. It has also been very rewarding to see the student I tutor and the other students getting tutored at the same time develop a genuine love for reading. The school I tutor at has a large percentage of students behind reading level, so it is encouraging to see the amount of tutors working with students to help them improve.
During the recent Day of service, the eleventh grade went to Harlem to help out at the Food Bank. While there, we bagged fresh produce, and assisted the Food Bank’s clients in picking out the food they want.
The Food Bank’s clients that day were by and large elderly people, and there were many of them. I found it quite troubling that those who are most in need of assistance are unable to get it from the city or state, and the fact that there were so many people compounded this feeling all the more. This is also made even worse by the fact that, upon arriving at the site, we found out that there were only two other volunteers that day. This experience has shown me just how much needs to be done on the issue of hunger and food insecurity.
This summer I volunteered as a camp counselor at the Fun and Friends Camp. This camp was dedicated to spreading cultural awareness to children of color. The story of how the camp was started was inspiring. The camp leader, Patrick Cox, has an adopted daughter named Isabella. He found that she was one of the only black children in her school and wanted to create a place where she could interact with other children whom were both physically and culturally alike; thus Fun and Friends was created. There were approximately 40 kids ranging from ages 5-12. It was incredibly fun watching over the kids, wether that meant playing with them or giving them a hug if they became homesick. I was designated to find videos for the voting period of the day, where the kids would watch a video and vote on their favorite one. They all seemed fascinated by children in their age range doing things as incredible as the kids in the videos. We also had a steel drummer, movie director, author and many other incredibly role models come and educate the children on their profession. It was an incredible three weeks working with lovely children and ultimately building a strong, loving community for people of color.
For my out of school service requirement, I helped out at my old synagogue West End Synagogue(http://westendsynagogue.org). What I did was for Purim and Yom Kippur, I set up decorations and tables with games and food on them. The games were meant to entertain little kids who were not old enough to attend the proper service. I liked setting up the decorations because I could be creative in making them. While it was a big commitment, the experience was still fulfilling to me. Helping the little kids be entertained was difficult but rewarding. After all, I was once their age and similarly bored by when I had to go, so it felt nice being able to make the experience more entertaining for them. Also, some of my other duties like making decorations and giving out food made the experience more enjoyable for everyone of all ages, Finally, I had not been to West End Synagogue in a long time, and so it the service was a good opportunity to reconnect with the place and people I had not seen for a long time.
This year for my out of school service, I volunteered at my dance school, the 92Y, as an assistant usher for dance shows. One of the benefits of being an usher is that I can see the performances being shown. It was a lot fun to see the different shows as it exposed me to different kinds of dance that I was curious to know more about or have never seen at all. This experience also brought me closer to my dance community; I discovered that Barry Blumenfield, the dance teacher at Friends, also teaches dance at the 92Y. I was also able to explore different aspects of my community, to see at as more than just a place where I take my classes. Seeing all the various ethnic forms of dance helped me to see it as a true cultural center. As an assistant usher I was also better able to understand some of the behind the scene work that goes into organizing an event.
These photos are from some of the shows I ushered and was able to see:
This was a show called The Laughing Stone, done by Sin Cha Hong, a dancer, choreographer, and vocalist from Korea. The dance was a kind of modern dance done at a slow tempo, almost like slow motion. I had never heard of this kind of dance before and thought it was relaxing to see the slowness of the movements in sync with slow tempo music. It was an interesting contrast in pace from the fast-paced movement dances I’m used to seeing and performing.
This was a show called Broadway Takes Two, done by a group of theater choreographers including Justin Boccitto (curator and director), Megan Doyle, Ryan Kasprzak, Jeff Shade, and Richard J. Hinds. The dance was a mix of theater dance with some tap dance and singing. I especially loved this show because this is one of my favorite kinds of dance and Megan Doyle and Heather Childs were performers in the show. Megan is the Director of the 92Y School of Dance and Heather is the Program Associate of the 92Y School of Dance. They are also both teachers at the 92Y School of Dance and I have known them for a few years. I was very excited to have the opportunity to see them perform.
This was a show called Tamashii no Hibiki (Soul Vibrations) done by the Keiko Fujii Dance Company from Japan with select dancers from New York. The dance was a type of modern dance with ballet with Taiko drumming. This was another kind of dance I had not deeply explored. I had started my study of dance at three with ballet but when I was seven, I started to take Tap and Jazz.
This year I had the honor of being part of God’s Love We Deliver’s first Youth Internship Program. God’s Love We Deliver’s mission is provide food to those who have chronic diseases and are in a poor economic situation. God’s Love We Deliver has specialized nutritionists that create a healthy meal specialized for each patient and the condition they are in. When you walk into the break room to start the day you see black and white portraits of affected patients. You get to see the terrible struggle they wake up to everyday and the terrible disease they must face every day. Every time I got to the building to volunteer, I always take a moment to look at these portraits as I walk into the room. They serve as a strong reminder that the work you do there has a direct impact on someone’s life. This is why I feel such a direct impact at God’s Love We Deliver. When you cook and make a contribution, you know you are changing the life of hundreds of people for the better. This is further reinforced by the extremely positive attitude of the workers. They are always providing extremely positive feedback about how to do some of the cooking more efficiently. I am so grateful that I was able to be a part of this experience as I really feel like I am making a difference in my community. Friends has granted me such a unique opportunity as they are one of the few school that sponsors this Youth Internship Program.
I have been able to get involved outside of the internship program by going to their website at: https://www.glwd.org/
This year as part of my out of school service, I volunteered in the kitchen at God’s Love We Deliver. Even though it was my first time volunteering there, I was greeted with open arms into a jovial group of people. We first began by cleaning our hands and putting our hair up, and then cleaned the kitchen. Because many of the patients at God’s Love We Deliver have suppressed immune systems, we had to be extra careful to clean everything thoroughly, and did so a few times throughout the day. Then, we assembled around a few tables where a very charismatic chef dumped piles of carrots for us to chop onto the tables. We chopped these carrots for a few hours, being extra careful to keep the pieces small and the correct shape.
This was a very rewarding experience for me because I felt the ways in which I would be helping people that day or the next. Being able to help those less fortunate than me made me realize how lucky I am to be able to work in a kitchen. My mom worked at God’s Love We Deliver in the ’90s, so she has told me about how happy the meals patients receive make them, so knowing I would make someone else happy was very rewarding. I also had a great time with the other volunteers as they were great people who laughed with us through the whole session. I was very humbled by my experience and see myself continuing to volunteer for God’s Love We Deliver in the future.
This year I participated in a scientific study about teenage drug use. The study was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health in partnership with the Food and Drug Administration. This was the first time in my life that I had done service that had had any real meaning to me. I felt as if I was contributing to a collective of data that would have large impacts on many people’s lives in the future. This service helped me understand that, despite the feeling that service is mandatory and loses all meaning due to the school’s requirement of it it, community service could potentially lead to major positive changes in people’s lives
New York 2 X Coalition, or NY2X, was founded by a group of Beacon High School students in 2007, in response to the lack of aid in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. It is a youth-led organization operating on consensus-based decision-making, dedicated to learning about environmental justice especially in its connection to systemic racism and classism. In February, I travelled for a week to Albuquerque, New Mexico, along with 22 other New York City high-school students. We stayed at a hostel in Albuquerque and walked each morning to a farm called Los Jardines Institute, two miles outside of Albuquerque, across the Rio Grande. The mission of Los Jardines is “to build and support healthy and sustainable communities and workplaces by providing opportunities that promote multigenerational, community-based models of learning, sharing and community building. We prioritize traditional land-based ways of knowing in the places ‘where we live, work, play, pray, and go to school.'” At Los Jardines, we worked for six hours on the fields, hoop houses, and gardens of the farm, then returned to the hostel for a workshop each night on a different system of oppression, and its effects and practices. Within the workshops we held conversations about the concept of intersectionality as the system in which all forms of oppression co-operate. I think the trip was a very definitive point in my education because it not only taught me essential information about the methods of different systems in my current life; it also it taught me to be confident in my voice–In our discussions we often spoke about the notion of unapologetic activism, but to reach that type of relationship with one’s work, one must be confident in their voice, and consequentially the truth that their voice is projecting, instead of receding into fearing the reaction of their audience. The trip has also helped me understand the relationship I have with the Earth, how it must be a sustainable and respectful relationship, instead of a consuming and violent one. By physically interacting with the Earth I now understand how my sustainability learns and draws its practices from the cyclicality of nature.
NY2X’s website: http://www.ny2x.org