This past summer, I went to Argentina, where I taught English and learned about Argentine and Mapuche Culture. I first took the 31 hour trip to Villa Pehuenia, a village of 2000 in the Andes Mountains
When I arrived I was completely overwhelmed by the generosity and genuine interest that the people expressed. I lived with a woman named Sandra. A little back story, my mom went to Argentina with a program called AFS, American Field Service, when she was 16. She lived with Sandra’s mom, but Sandra and my mom are both the same age. Anyway, I began to go to school there, eat incredible food, and teach English in the English Institute. I taught twice a week for 4 hours and I helped the students, most of whom also were in regular school with me, with grammar and vocab. I thought that this experience was absolutely incredible because I was able to live in another part of the world with such a different culture. The level of poverty there was very apparent, but everyone was nice and EXTREMELY generous. Teaching English was very humbling, because I was able to give a gift in exchange for the Spanish and culture that I was learning. I also felt so proud to be able to teach people about America and be listened to. I am thrilled that Sandra and one of her son’s is coming to America in December. I hope that you all can meet him. If you want to learn more about what I did there, not just about my school experience, visit www.maxblogargentina.wordpress.com
This year, I volunteered at “Power Play” which is an organization aimed at involving girls in sports and building their sense of empowerment. For one of their events, a “Girl Power Day”, I made posters to build excitement and encourage positivity among the girls. Through finding inspirational quotes and role models for the posters I realized the lack of positivity around women and how important it is to have young girls see and become strong women in their lives.
I’m really passionate about building this self-worth among young girls, especially those in lower income communities where it can be hard to find empowering activities- which the organization targets.
The Choreolab class and I spent several months preparing for DRA which was a dance fundraiser for AIDs research. Each of us in the class choreographed a piece and were in several. I worked with five Eight graders and Freshmen on a dance piece. I also danced in three other pieces. It was amazing to come together with other dancers in the school and spend time creating something that went to a good cause.
The social issue of a failing schools in New York City was never something that stood out to me. When we were looking for social issues to do a Youth Philanthropy Initiative presentation on, the issue of our city’s and nation’s failing education system wasn’t something that we overlooked. However, during the project, the issues importance and call for action grew apparent and a need for awareness and change was something that I grew passionate about. My group chose the organization “City Squash” in which students are enrolled in grades 3 and 7 where they then work on academics and squash. Going to the non-profit and seeing first-hand, the work that was being done with the students, on and off the courts was most rewarding. While at the headquarters, Alexandra, the head of programs, informed us of opportunities that were available if we continued our relations with the program. Our help could go as far as helping 3rd graders to filing paperwork in the office.
Being that the YPI project was a group project, some of the challenges that I faced was working with people. Understanding others and their definitions of “work ethic” at times proved to be difficult and required a high level of patience and self control. However, overcoming this challenge demonstrated that I was able to gain new communication skills, problem solving abilities, and understanding the needs and desires of other people. This project left me conscious of the opportunities that I am blessed to have such as a quality education, and aware of the misfortune other people within my own city deal with.