My participation in the HOPE Count helped me understand statistics in the
real world by showing me the necessity in getting the closest number possible for
certain world problems. Using statistics in the real world is the first step in helping
solve many substantial and important issues such as, the amount of homeless
people in New York City, the amount of people in the United States with AIDs, or the
amount of African-Americans that are incarcerated. By finding a statistic for a
specific issue, we can discover how large and prevalent that issue is and then learn
how to help prevent or stop it.
Reflecting on the beautifully intelligent quote from To Kill a Mockingbird, it is
absolutely correct that one can never begin to grasp the struggles of another human
being until they are in their shoes. By going on the HOPE Count I realized how
detrimental a lifestyle it is and how saddening it was to have a large number of
homeless people tallied at the end. Seeing it first hand, I now know that I will never
be able to understand or comprehend what it’s like to live homeless in the city
unless I am living it.
After our time in Nepal, I was able to truly see what the opportunity for education means to people around the world. While working side by side the villagers, we were able to learn why they wanted to build a new school and offer their children opportunities that they did not have access to. During our homestay, Sophie and I were talking to our host father about the school project. We asked if his six year old nephew was excited for it to be finished and he responded that the whole village was excited, not only the children. It was very inspiring to see so many people working together as a community to bring about something that they think will be give many opportunities for their children and grandchildren.
Lauren, Sinead, me, Jada and our host children at the closing ceremony
Sinead, me, Lauren and Sophie visiting another Build On school in Nepal.
Lauren and I on a suspension bridge while hiking
Over the summer I was an intern for a nonprofit called New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI). The organization’s mission is to use the expertise of top New York City law firms to solve major issue in the local area. Partnering with lawyers around the city who offer their time on a pro bono basis, NYLPI works in three main areas, health justice, environmental justice, and disability justice. In recent years, NYLPI has successfully sued the EPA over it failure to remove toxic chemicals from public schools, started campaigns to solve issues of toxic waste dumping, and worked on behalf of clients with disabilities who have been neglected for maligned.
As an intern, I was helped research for different campaigns and lawsuits, work with the development staff on fundraisers, and participate in office and board policy meetings. As the only high school intern, instead of law school or undergraduate, I also had the opportunity to participate in events designed for other interns that included discussions with lawyers from different areas of the legal world. It was immensely gratifying to witness some of the work that people spend their lives doing. It was also interesting to work with lawyers from major law firms who had volunteered their time to help those less fortunate. I was able to learn a great deal on how the organization is run, from the meetings, fundraising, office culture, and the small and oftentimes mundane tasks that go into the workings of an organization.
Over the summer I went on a sailing and community service trip in the Caribbean. One community service activity that we completed was cleaning trash from the mangroves of Hodges Creek Marina on Tortola. We used kayaks and paddled into the mangroves and were able to pull out trash that would kill the mangroves. We were able to find fenders, tires, and even a dinghy.
We also did community service on the small island of Saba in the Leeward Islands. On Saba, we cleared trails for hikers and removed rocks and cacti.
For service day this year my advisory went to a food pantry on 110th street. This location provided groceries for families and individuals that had fallen on hard times and could not provide for themselves. My advisory unloaded the food from a truck and then sorted. Although it was extremely tiresome, it felt really good to give back and help this organization. Overall my advisory had a lot of fun and bonded while helping out.
On Tuesday, April 19, my advisory went to the New York Common Pantry. We took the 6 train to the Pantry and almost instantly began working. We were broken up into groups of two, with each group being assigned a different task around the pantry. The jobs included stacking, creating assorted food bags to give out, organizing, and more.
Working at the New York Common Pantry was not only a fun experience, but also was a meaningful one as well. I learned how some single mothers come to the pantry with as many as 14 children to feed, and how this pantry has played such a major role in its area. It’s a job that requires constant effort, and proved to me how willing the people working at the Pantry are to do this everyday.
On February 26th and 27th, I volunteered to tour two students who were accepted into Friends this year. I brought them each to two of my classes on Tuesday and Wednesday to let them experience first hand what classes at Friends are like (Tuesday: English & History, Wednesday: History & Math.) They both enjoyed the open structure of the classes and told me that they were not aware that this was the style of most classes at Friends. They also liked the idea of having iPads involved in the curriculum of some classes. It was an interesting experience of which I enjoyed being a part.
For my service in school this year, I was a peer tutor for ninth graders in Physics. I was assigned to the student through the academic center who, besides being a quiet place to work and get help from other teachers, is responsable for assigning a peer tutor to any student who feels that they need help in any subject. I also worked with Ms. Witt to plan what I should work on with the student I was tutoring.
I, personally, do not like to seek out help very often, but am glad to offer help to anyone who needs it. Through working as a peer tutor, I was able to see one student go from not doing very well in the beginning of Physics to obtaining high grades in the class throughout the entire year. Seeing this student succeed in Physics like he did made me very happy. Not only was he happy that he was getting good grades, but I was also happy because I saw my work pay off and saw how happy he was. At first, this student was not interested in having a peer tutor to help him, however he started to like it more and more as he saw how it was helping him. This showed me that even though I may not like seeking out help for subjects and other things that I need extra help in, it will help in the end. Through this experience, I have become a lot more willing to help others when they need it, because it is so rewarding to see them succeed. Although I do not believe I did as much as I could have done to help him, I did try as hard as I could and am pleased with the outcome.
In the beginning of December, I traveled out to Breezy Point with my softball team, the Brooklyn Cyclones. The team is based out of Brooklyn so many of my teammates were personally affected by Hurricane Sandy or their friends were. When we arrived, almost a month and a half after Sandy, there were still state police roadblocks that were checking vehicles in and out of the area. As soon as we drove into the town, we immediately saw houses that had been completely torn off of their foundations and dropped back down ten feet away. It was remarkable. We arrived at a church that we had organized with to hold a cookout. When we arrived, we set up our tables and grills. We gave out hot dogs and hamburgers to people whose houses had been destroyed, volunteer workers, and policemen and women. One woman who lived in Breezy Point actually came up to me and told me that the food that we brought was the first hot meal she had had in two weeks. It was amazing to know that this simple act of bringing a grill and some hot dogs could bring so much joy to someone who had lost everything. A little while later, a truck came with donations for the citizens of Breezy Point. We unloaded everything from packets of Mac & Cheese to cribs and diapers. After that, my friend Nicole’s friend who lived in Breezy brought us to his house. While we were walking away from the main road, we saw more and more houses that were devastated. When we got to his house and went inside, he showed us that water had got up to three feet in the first floor of the house. Ever since Sandy, he had been living with his extended family in Brooklyn.
Overall, it was really nice being able to help all those people who had lost so much. I was truly amazed at how thankful they were.
Me and some teammates on our way to Breezy.
My whole team at Breezy
Over the summer I went on a Rustic Pathways service trip to Fiji. Rustic Pathways is a teen service oriented teen travel group, with trips around the globe. In Fiji, I went on two different service trips: the “Village Education Project” and the “Green Island Service Project.” On the Village Education Project, I travelled in the back of a truck up the Fijian mountains to the remote Nasivikoso Village. Our project there was to help the Fijians who lived their construct a new school, cut down trees and dig for pipeline near the school, teach the children at the current school, and do various tasks to help out around the village. But, of course, we also played with the children and shared stories of our American culture. Working and living in such a poor village was a very interesting experience, as in both villages I went to I was able to observe and be in a society that is the complete opposite the one I live in, in New York City. On the Green Island Service Project, I travelled on a five hour ferry ride followed by an hour long boat ride to the extremely remote island of Malikati. Although Malikati was a little less poor than Nasivikoso (houses made from concrete vs wood, more access to electricity, clean water, etc.,) the village still needed a lot of work. the “project” was to help construct and paint an entire house for an elderly couple, along with doing various service tasks around the island. Again, we also played with the children there, shared stories, and went kayaking and swimming in the incredible Fijian waters.
Although both trips were part of my “vacation,” going on these service trips really changed the way I view the world and provided a very meaningful experience for me. The moment I returned to New York, I found myself standing still, looking at the tall buildings and technology for a while each day. The difference is indescribable, and I could never live in these parts of Fiji for my entire life, but seeing how happy and fun the Fijians are made me realize that I am lucky for what I have and where I live in the world. For them, clean water was a luxury. I will never forget my trip to Fiji, and have actually communicated with some of the Fijian friends I made there via Facebook.