The service I am reflecting upon is my gathering of information on the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump for my politics class. For this class, we were instructed to study one specific subsection of each front runner’s campaign (e.g. healthcare, tax reform, environment, etc…) and create a page listing purely the information found from appropriate websites. This included scouring both candidates’ websites and reading several articles from accredited news sources. A major aspect of the project was trying to remain unbiased, as the mission of the assignment was to present as much information as possible and then have the reader decide on their own their stances. A very interesting part of this project for me was analyzing how other sources presented information, analyzing their unwritten biases and comparing them to the facts presented on each campaign website. Another interesting aspect was analyzing how each candidate presented their stances on certain issues, with one candidate providing clear and concise responses, with the other sometimes choosing to not elaborate on some controversial topics. This leads me to another part of the project that I found interesting, which was trying to present as unbiasedly as possible when a candidate did not provide information at all for a certain subject. This was a difficult task, and I felt as though I was constantly attempting to write with bias. I think that this project enabled me to further explore how important writing, and language in general, functions in influencing others’ minds. It also allowed me to view alternate perspectives on controversial topics I otherwise would not have had the opportunity to do so.
Link: Project Cicero
In early March, Friends Seminary hosted book drives to be sent to Cicero. I spearheaded the sorting of these books during my frees for a week and a half and if I remember correctly I sorted 40 boxes with a total of 2000 books. A good amount of people commented on how they always saw me working on the boxes when they passed by, which would’ve gotten annoying if I didn’t enjoy the sorting. After the books were sorted in the boxes, they were sent to Hotel Pennsylvania for further sorting. We headed over on Friday March 8th and Sunday March 10th to Hotel Pennsylvania and sorted books from the many, many boxes into more detailed sections than the sections I had to sort by (eg. Chapter books were a section which would’ve been in my Fiction section).
My legs were pretty tired by the end of these sessions after standing for hours on end, but I didn’t mind. Doing Project Cicero didn’t cause a euphoria of emotion, but it was pleasant to do along with the knowledge that teachers would need me to do this job well; getting to see the teachers picking up books also felt nice. I’m probably going to continue to volunteer at Project Cicero… at least as long as I don’t have to sort any more of those Minecraft guide books.
In the beginning of this year (before the election occurred), Stefan’s Politics, Power, and Citizenship class participated in a project to raise a greater awareness of the differences between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump from a policy perspective. We were split up into groups and scoured the two candidate’s websites and past statements to determine their stances on issues such as women’s rights, immigration, criminal justice, the 2nd amendment, and healthcare. It seemed, for each group, to be difficult to find information on Trump’s policy objectives. Moses Goren and I were assigned the topic of healthcare. You can find a link to our page here: http://blogs.friendsseminary.org/electionissues2016/2016/09/29/healthcare/. Stefan uploaded each group’s product to the website. The objective of the project was to provide an unbiased side-by-side comparison of Clinton and Trump in terms of policy for our community to use. Our respective biases not seem to permeate our final product (although it was an initial concern); this was most likely due to the fact that we were required to use the candidates’ exact words (or, in the case of their websites, official positions). Completing the project allowed me to be more articulate and precise when debating about healthcare in the context of the impending election with friends and family. As a result of the project, I was exposed to important, topical information that proved to be extremely useful. Although we did not investigate the readership or impact of our website, we intended to contribute to a more politically informed community.
For the first part of this year, I was a tour guide for the admission’s office. I gave tours to prospective students and their families. I enjoyed getting to talk to the students about my favorite parts of Friends. In preparing to be a tour guide, I learned a lot of interesting facts about the school that I did not know before. It was nice getting to share the experiences I have had in different classes with the prospective families and highlight which teachers I thought were particularly amazing. I saw one of the boys I gave a tour to later on when he was visiting the school as an admitted student. He said he loves Friends and I really hope he comes in the fall. It was a great experience being able to see the future faces of Friends, a place I love so much and will sadly be leaving next year.
Last Saturday my dad and I spent the day grocery shopping for, cooking, and delivering meals to the homeless people at the Friends Shelter. We made dinner, dessert, and breakfast for the shelter. I have delivered meals to the shelter several times over the course of my time at Friends and I really love doing it. I see the space that transforms into a shelter at night everyday when I’m at school and I like that I can help people who are so close to the school community. When we deliver the food, the bed are set up and the people who collect the food from us are so grateful. It makes me so happy to see the Friends values alive at all hours of the day. I plan to continue delivering meals to the shelter even after I leave Friends.
In Stefan’s Politics class earlier this year, we talked a lot about the 2016 presidential election. We watched videos about, read articles on, and wrote essays on the two candidates, trying to better educate ourselves on the differences and similarities of their opinions and plans. Stefan made the class as unbiased as possible, showing us information and articles from various sources and authors. The discussions we had about the election in class were very interesting and I enjoyed hearing everyone’s thoughts and learning more both about Clinton and Trump, and also about the election process itself. We did a project in which we were broken up into pairs and each group researched a specific issue that was pertinent to the election. Zara Schreiber and I looked at Clinton and Trump’s economic visions and their plans for job growth and creation. We then made a side-by-side chart illustrating where different aspects of Clinton and Trump’s plans were similar and where they were extremely different. Stefan compiled all of the charts made in the class and put them up on a website for our community to look at and have at its disposal for all election-related information. We hoped that this website would serve as a useful tool for the community. Here is a link to the website: http://blogs.friendsseminary.org/electionissues2016/
This summer I decided to volunteer at Cooke Center for Learning and Development, an independent school for special needs students. I volunteered for over a month and spent most of my time as a teacher’s assistant at the lower school and middle school program. In the mornings, I would usually help out with the Music, Art, and Speech classes. During the afternoon, I would monitor recess, lunch, and PE. Nearly all of my work was one-on-one with the students, which allowed me to get to know them on a personal level. Everyone who I met was unbelievably friendly, making my experience at Cooke unforgettable. The students’ sheer excitement at learning and mastering of new skills as well as their perseverance, optimism, and joy were contagious, and made me wonder who benefited most from our relationships. If anyone would like to do community service that involves working with kids this summer in the city I highly recommend volunteering at Cooke.
This fall in Epidemiology, we used surveys from the New York City Department of Health to identify health problems that are that are most present in the communities of one of the five boroughs. We were tasked to create a clinic that would provide aid to the community and the health problem that people living there struggle with the most. My group chose to focus on Queens. We found that there have been a significant number of HIV cases in Queens. Compared to HIV cases recorded for all of New York City, the borough of Queens alone is not far off. Even though there have been efforts made to halt the deaths caused by HIV and as a result death rates have gone down, our group chose to focus on the effort that could be made to help people who have the virus and compromised immune systems to stay healthy and to educate both people with the disease and those without it about sexually transmitted diseases. A clinic that provides this will hopefully be able to make people more conscious, decrease death rates even more, and reduce the spread of the disease.
My task was to create the budget section of the clinic grant proposal. I worked with my partners to find out exactly what services the clinic could provide to best serve the community living with HIV or at risk of receiving HIV and an available location where we could establish the clinic. The most challenging aspect of creating the grant was thinking about how to respond to HIV crisis in Queens in a way that could be accessible by the community and affordable by the community and to open. How many doctors would we need? Would they volunteer? Would people in the community of Rockaway want to take a blood tests and how many blood lab fees would we send out each week? How close is the clinic to the train, bus stop, or other public service? My job of adding up the building costs, salaries for the nurses and educators, and the cost of equipment added up. In the end, I discovered that establishing a clinic that could realistically support the community and in which quality care could be found is outrageously costly. It would take a lot of fundraising and grant requests to cover all of the start up costs and would take generous annual funding to cover yearly costs to keep the clinic running.
Even though, I found that opening the clinic would cost an arm and a leg, I believe that the community deserves a clinic devoted to helping people with HIV persevere and educate the community to make the rate of deaths from HIV to drop at a faster rate. There are creative ways in which such a clinic could gather the money and meet the costs. The value of the lives that could be saved and improved from this type of clinic exceed the cost of starting it. This clinic could be a model for clinics in other similar communities. If successful, I would be motivated to share this knowledge and experience with other communities lacking such a clinic.
In Epidemiology, my group was chosen to study a health issue that affects Staten Island and we found on the Community Health Survey that Staten Island has a low percentage of people who have gotten tested for HIV and who used a condom the last time they had sex. In light of this, my group opted to open an HIV testing and sexual health clinic in Staten Island. This project opened my eyes to the serious lack of health care or inequity in the health care system faced by many boroughs in New York, and specifically in Staten Island. Many neighborhoods have only a small percentage of people with health insurance and many are not receiving the medical services that they need.
We got a tiny glimpse into just how difficult it is to set up a health clinic through this project. Finding a rental space cheap enough to reasonably afford that was also within commuting distance was challenging (especially in Staten Island where the public transportation is notoriously flawed) and keeping the budget relatively low also presented difficulty. However, we were able to find organizations that give grants to help fund health (and more specifically, HIV) clinics in New York and around the world, so our clinic might be able to receive some or all of its money from such organizations.
This project definitely made me more aware of the world around me, the inequities in health care and services, and of the health issues that afflict the boroughs. Seeing these issues and the inequity in those who receive health care has made me really motivated to try to improve the health care system in New York and help those who need assistance get the medical attention and services they need.
The beginning of Stefan’s class, Power Politics, and Citizenship, has focused primarily on the presidential election. None of us had any trouble discussing current events or the characters of the major presidential candidates, but not all of us were on equal footing when it came to discussing the issues of policy that are at stake this year. In fact, all of us were pretty unclear about just what it was Trump and Clinton were proposing on issues that hardly come up in the debates, like climate change or healthcare. After only a few discussions in class it was clear that the class, the community as a whole, and anyone else who was interested, would benefit from having one site, one page, where the two candidates could be compared solely on the issues, not because the noise of the campaign isn’t important in choosing our next president, but because we should not let the noise drown out other important aspects of that decision. Morgan Carmen and I tackled healthcare, taking information from the site only from platforms entirely controlled by the candidates. For Morgan, who was investigating Clinton’s healthcare plans, this was easy. All of the information as right there. For me, things were difficult. Trump’s website is a mess of spelling mistakes, 404 errors, and vague plans which hardly make any sense. Plus, the website was overhauled twice in the few days I was looking at it for information. We didn’t want to use interviews or appearances on television, as these could be too easily misused; our main sources of information were the candidates’s websites themselves. It was tricky.