Teach for India-Gender Equality

During August I returned to the Kilbil Junior High School in Janwadi, Pune, to resume volunteering with a class of fifty seventh graders at the school. Upon my return, I was greeted with many hugs and many kids excitedly asking “Do you remember me, didi?”. I was so lucky to be able to continue building my relationship with these kids.
Instead of helping with miscellaneous tasks, I decided to focus my work with the kids on a project about gender equality. We began our project with some powerpoints that taught the kids the basics, like “What is gender equality?”, “What is feminism?”, etc. After laying the groundwork for our conversations, we went on to do activities exploring gender-based pressures/norms, watch a documentary, and write poems surounding gender equality over the course of three weeks.
Hearing the kids’ thoughts on gender inequality and how we can achieve equality was inspiring. Despite the fact that many of the young girls in that classroom face severe gender-based oppression, they were are able to dream of a world in which they were treated equally, and come up with ways to reach that dream.
I will always cherish my experience at Kilbil and the kids that I’ve gotten to know there. The sentence “educating girls is the single most effective way eradicate extreme poverty” has popped up many times in my life during the last few years. Now, after interacting with girls and boys that are going to break the cycle of poverty, I am convincedthat this statistic-based claim is reality.


Summer Service

This summer in the beginning of June, I helped out with the head start program in China Town. I helped in a classroom and played with kids for three hours each day for two weeks. The kids and I played in the block area or the drawing table for a few hours and then went out and played in the park for an hour each day. I worked with kids in the 4-5 age range and I felt like I made a big impression on them. I befriended a few kids and felt like they really looked up to me. This is the first time that I thought I needed to set an example for someone and I felt really close to the kids when we were playing in the playground or working on a drawing together.

Being in China Town, there was a lot of ethnic diversity in the program which had kids from Chinese backgrounds to kids with Hispanic background. Despite the ethnic differences, I felt really connected to these kids and the larger China Town community. I was a part of a community helping to care for young kids, and I felt like I was making a difference to these children. While participating at this service opportunity, I met a lot of people who really cared for their community and valued stewardship. I crossed paths with two other young person volunteers and thought that they both truly cared for the children that were at the program that they volunteered for, much like I did. This is how I saw that “Light is present in us all” and I truly respected the other volunteers and employees in the head start program. The children’s faces lit up every time a volunteer entred the room and their great attitudes and personalities made every day I went down to china town a treat.

The Friendship Circle Camp 2014

Dana Franco Summer Service Reflection

This summer I volunteered at The Friendship Circle summer camp for one week along with other eleventh graders at Friends, Jane Acierno, Nell Pearson and Laura Michael. The Friendship Circle is an organization that creates fun opportunities for children with autism to interact with one another and their counselors. During the year, Friendship Circle holds two programs: Friends at Home and Sunday Circle. Friends at Home is a program where teenage volunteers go to their child’s home once a week for an hour and have the opportunity to learn more about their lives at home and have fun. Sunday Circle meets twice a month at the organization’s building, on 19th street between 6th and 7th avenues, where the kids and volunteers unite in soccer, karate, and other fun activities. During the camp this summer, each volunteer was assigned to a child at The Friendship Circle camp and helped them throughout the week. We alternated each day between indoor activities and fun field trips. By the end of the camp, I really bonded with my buddy Ava.

Going into Friendship Circle I was slightly nervous and unsure of what to expect. My friends Jane, Nell and Laura had completed the camp before so they were able to tell me a little more of what the camp would be like. After meeting my buddy, I soon discovered she loved to sing, work on arts and crafts projects, and run around in the camp’s outdoor water area filled with sprinklers and water toys. On field trip days, Ava liked touring the intrepid and exploring the museum’s interactive exhibits. Overall, I enjoyed my time with Ava and the other campers and hope to see them again next summer.

I encourage anyone to sign up at: friendshipnyc.com!

UN Conference on Human Rights

This past December, I attended the United Nations Conference on Human Rights with 15 other Friends students and others from schools across the nation, and even some schools in other countries.

During the conference, we explored many different human rights issues, such as girls’ education, environmental sustainability, and child mortality. The conference provided each of the students in attendance with a greater knowledge of human rights issues and how the UN and organizations such as Amnesty International work to eradicate these problems. After being supplied with a solid foundation of knowledge regarding these issues, we broke up into focused groups to work on proposals.


I believe that educating students on human rights issues that face the world today is extremely important because we are capable of being active catalysts for change in our community and in the world if given the tools to succeed.

This conference allowed me to explore my interest in the human rights issue of girls’ education and to collaborate with others who share similar interests and goals.

The GO Project

This October, I began volunteering with the GO Project. The GO Project strives to “shape the futures of low-income New York City public school children by providing critical academic, social and emotional support starting in the early elementary years. GO provides year-round educational and family support services to children who are performing below grade level and equips them with the confidence and skills needed to succeed at school, at home and in life”. During the summer, GO School operates 5 days a week from 9-5, providing not only educational enrichment, but arts, technology, and PE classes as well. During the school year, GO provides Saturday school. At GO school we have “two and half hours of intensive lessons designed to empower each student as they build essential skills in reading, writing and math”.

By housing GO school/summer in various private schools in Lower Manhattan (including our own), GO works to bridge the gap between students with ample resources and the students without and provide educational equity.

Volunteering at GO has been an amazing experience for me. Building personal connections with my class, 1C, has taught me a lot about learning and the struggles that come along with it even at the young ages of 5 and 6. During GO Saturdays, I have made some very cute, very bright little friends whom I’ll continue to skip the extra hours of Saturday morning sleep for.

So if you like kids, educational equity & social justice, graham crackers & pretzels, and service hours, join GO!

If you’re at all interested in GO, but aren’t ready to commit, feel free to email me (16mehta@friendsseminary.org), Leitzel (lschoen@friendsseminary), or Olivia Nuñez (onunez@goprojectnyc.org), director of community engagement at GO.






Teach for India

For the past two weeks, I have been volunteering with Teach for India at the Kilbil School in Janwadi, a low-income neighborhood in the city of Pune in Maharashtra. I chose to volunteer with Teach for India because I had heard and read about many of their nation-wide efforts to give an excellent education to as many children as possible and to end educational inequity in India. TFI is currently working with nearly 23,000 students across India. TFI has an extremely high impact on the schools and students it works with. Teach for India strives to change the fact that four percent of children in India never start school, that fifty-eight percent do not finish primary school, and that ninety percent do not finish school, thereby significantly limiting career options and earning capabilities.

I decided to get involved in this project because I wanted to help (in whatever small way that I could) bridge the gap between those that are already receiving a solid education and those that are not getting the education that they deserve. Teach for India has been intervening at the Kilbil School with the current sixth grade (150 students) for about five years.In my two weeks at Kilbil, I helped one of the three fellows from Teach for India teach his fifty sixth graders about writing, reading, and algebra.

Party on my last day...

Party on my last day…

The day that I started volunteering at Kilbil, the students were given the prompt for a balanced essay, “Should uniforms be compulsory at school? Why or why not?” and were also told that if the essays were good enough, they would be given to the adminstration to consider. This was a question that had never crossed the students mind, they saw no other alternative to wearing a uniform. This piece gave the students a voice, that they otherwise would not have had on this issue, as students are most frequently looked to as inferior people who can be beat, yelled at, who are meant to memorize thousands of facts without giving any true thought to them, and whose somewhat controversial thoughts are not worthy of recognition by several teachers and the adminstration (this is most definitely not the case in the TFI grade). Obviously at Friends we have quite a lot of freedom with what we wear and are able to express ourselves through our clothing, so it was interesting to me that the students were having so much trouble finding one reason that not having uniform s be complusory would be a better option for them (other than the extremely valid reason of: the cost of uniforms is too much– 800INR, -$13 a year–and places a lot of stress on the Kilbil parents). It eventually came to the girls, “We could wear pretty dresses everyday!”, but it took much longer (and many thought-provoking questions) for the boys to think of why it might be beneficial not to have uniforms at school. Not only did this piece teach the kids to open their eyes to various alternatives to their way of living, but it also opened mine. Something I thought I was against, having uniforms, could actually be beneficial (I’m not suggesting we get uniforms at Friends). Uniforms give students a sense of identity, comfort, and belonging. Having a uniform eliminates the inate concerns some kids have about what to wear each day. Having a uniform might even set up a more effective learning environment for younger students who have more trouble focusing than older students. This was just one of the many things I learned while teaching at Kilbil.

On our way to P.E. by the mountains.

On our way to P.E. by the mountains.

Teach for India has not just established a dream, but many amazing ways to achieve that dream with the help of fellows, alumni, volunteers, and alternative ways of teaching to those of the extremely traditional schools in India.

Shifa and Mohini

If you are interested in learning more about Teach for India, click here http://www.teachforindia.org/?home=2.


Liam’s Service with AAU

In addition to helping out in the school, I was also able to help outside of it. For roughly 3-4 months, my friend and I coached a girls youth 6th grade AAU basketball team. While coaching I was able to help each of them develop their skills in shooting, dribbling, rebounding, defense, and other areas. Through the duration of my time there, I was able to s visibly observe each of them making these improvements, and the feelings that I felt for knowing that I was a part of that made me very happy. This community service helped me learn about interactions with those younger than me and helped me learn the proper methods to teach others new things. If you’re interested in finding out about the organization and ways to connect with them visit: http://www.aaugirlsbasketball.org/.

Liam’s Service Reflection

During during freshman year at Friends, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the vast amounts of service opportunities, both in and out of school, that were available for people throughout the entire upper school. I had the opportunity to help my physics teacher, Ms. Witt, at a booth for physics when people applying to friends came to check out the school. In addition to being able to help my teacher, I was also able to meet some of the people that I may possibly see in the grade below my own next year. I was also able to make sandwiches for the poor, putting my culinary abilities to the test. Looking back on this year, I wish that I had taken advantage of more of these opportunities, and I will make sure to make time for these activities next year.

Scarlett’s Service reflection

This year the 9th grade organized The Girl Rising movie screening. We hosted two bake sales that to help raise money for scholarships for females at the Kisyoro School in Ruhiira Uganda. After all the bake sales, we had a movie screening of Girl Rising. The movie shows 9 girls lives in different parts of the world. The movie was very educational and extremely moving. In the lobby of the meeting house, where the movie was screened, we had more baked goods and a box for donations. After the movie, everyone signed a banner and wrote a personal message to each of the girls in the Kisyoro school. We ended up raising enough money, on our own, to send a girl to school. This experience was very moving, being able to change a girls life was very rewarding.

Service Reflection Miles Donnelly

Miles Donnelly

For in-school service this year I helped run a booth at the India at Friends event.  Because this was my first year doing service, in-school service really had an impact on me. By completing my school service requirements, I was able to fully commit my time to the Friends community, which I wasn’t really motivated to do before. Volunteering for India at Friends also educated me about a culture that I did not really know about and am now acutely aware of.

Running the yoga booth was an exciting way to share my knowledge that I had picked up by participating in yoga to fulfill a PE credit. I found it interesting that something so trendy here in America could be such a big part of a culture somewhere else. It was fulfilling to have the opportunity to teach my classmates something new. I felt teaching yoga to people was a fun way to make the community aware of a different culture. I am proud that we as a school are able to raise awareness of multiple cultures because the New York community is so diverse and being aware of many cultures improves one’s ability to interact with people in a larger community.