My grandmother, grandfather, brother and I woke up at 6:30 and were on the road to Bethlehem by 7:00. We got there by 9:00, received a half hour of basic training, and our assignments. We went to a very popular local supermarket, and planted ourselves on both sides of its entrance. For the next six hours we asked every single person on their way in to the supermarket if they were registered to vote, and if their voter registrations had been updated. For the most part we met with resentment and anger. Almost everyone thought their registrations were up to date and that they didn’t need our help. We found ourselves in tough political conversations with very angry people who believed all kinds of conspiracies we knew to be untrue, and it was a great struggle to not be antagonistic. We were cursed out. We were yelled at. It was exhausting. In the end, I personally managed to register five people to vote only two days before the registration period ended, which was incredibly rewarding. I was struck by the unequal distribution of who had access to information about voters, and was particularly disturbed that people of color were consistently less informed about the requirements for voting. Some did not know that they had to redo their registration if they had married and changed their name, or if they had moved since last voting. Some did not know that in Pennsylvania, convicted felons were actually re-enfranchised. In the end, four out of the five voters I registered were black or hispanic, despite the fact that ninety percent of the people that passed us that day were white. I’m proud to have empowered those people, and hope to be able to do more work in spreading access to information next year to have an even bigger impact.
Throughout the course of this year, I worked with pediatrician Alan Shapiro at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in the South Bronx. Alan does great work with underprivileged children who suffer from various illnesses. Many of his patients have asthma and breathing issues due to living in tiny, cramped apartments with inadequate cleaning maintenance and ventilation. Alan not only works as a doctor for these children, but he often develops personal relationships with them and their families, becoming a father figure to some or an older brother to others. Alan is my neighbor and I have grown up around him, running to him when I got a cut or that horrible time I was stung between my toes by a bee. Alan is easily one of the greatest, most intelligent, and selfless people I know, and I feel honored to have gotten to work with him. Over the course of a couple months, I collected clothes from many different families I know, organizing a drive and sorting through and washing the clothes. After a couple months of collecting, my dad and I brought the clothes to Alan at the hospital in the South Bronx. I was able to meet a few patients while I was there and see pure joy cross a little girl called Cora’s face as she unfolded a barbie sweatshirt I had brought. To this day, I still receive letters and photos from the children and families who got some of the clothes and it warms my heart. I plan to continue collecting clothes for the children at this hospital this summer and next school year because it was a great experience.
Every Thursday afternoon this school year I assisted my instructors in teaching a level one class at my ballet school, Ballet Academy East on 92nd and third avenue http://www.balletacademyeast.com . The students in the class were between the ages of six and eight. Most of them live or go to school in the neighborhood and have completed a year or two of pre-ballet classes at Ballet Academny East. Level one is the first year in which they can begin their pre-professional training. They were asked to face the mirror at the free standing barres in the center of the studio. My teachers taught them the names of the most basic steps and the ways in which they must be done. My role was to catch and fix their mistakes and demonstrate new exercises. The teachers and I emphahised that they listen to the music, develop their turn out muscles, and improve their flexibility. It was a wonderful experience to watch the students pick up the language and expectations of ballet. The class also reminded me of the principle ideas and goals of the artform that I have sometimes lost in taking more advanced classes. I was happy to be able to share a passion and discipline with younger students. I am confident that the class will shape how they approach whatever they end up doing in life.
Hey it’s Nic and in US History 11 we organized a tour for children in the GO Project. I say we because it was SUPPOSED to be a group project, but uhh….. yeah. I researched Social Activism in the area of Greenwich village and planned out a tour starting at Cooper Union. Looking from the map, it looks like it took like five minutes to make, but in reality it took me searching through ~30 articles and 2 databases to get everything I needed, most of which I had to discard for swiftness in the tour. I got to the GO project on a Saturday along with the other tour guides, kids were assigned into our groups, and soon we headed out. Unfortunately, the tour did not go over as well as I had hoped: the girls stayed in the back listening to music with the other two tour guides while the boys were with me in the far front, and they were… well we can just leave it at disrespectable can’t we :). I can’t blame them, I wouldn’t care about a tour based on Social Activism, but I wished they at least ignored me instead of harassing me. Honestly, the GOproject kids, at least the ones I were with, were horrible menaces and I would never give a tour for them again. I left halfway through after being screamed at the boys, being asked constantly off-topic questions while I’m speaking, fighting/screaming at one another, and poking my chest while saying “fatty fat fat”. So yeah, not a great experience. I’m sure that the circumstances just had me either getting the worse kids, them being really moody, or something, as I would hate to generalize all GO project kids based on those, but man, if you’re going to do the GO project, you must be as a castle.
Here’s the map of the tour:
This summer I volunteered at the Randal’s Island Park Alliance and took pictures mainly for the organization’s tennis summer camp at the Sportime Center. This specific camp allowed for under privileged children from all areas in Harlem, the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn to have the opportunity to go outside and learn how to play tennis, dance, and play instruments. Volunteering at this summer camp provided me with a great opportunity to not only help advertise this wonderful organization, but also be able to merge my interest in Photography with service learning. When I went to the Sportime Center all of the children were beaming with joy and were eager to learn how to play tennis and have fun. The staff, which consisted mostly of volunteers, were extremely friendly and it was evident that they were truly passionate about educating and taking care of these children. Most of my service for the organization was photographing the closing ceremony for the camp. This ceremony was an event that presented the camper’s parents as well as the camp’s sponsors all the wonderful work and activities that the children took part in over the summer. There were three main parts of this ceremony. The first part consisted of the tennis instructors telling the parents and sponsor about the skills and activities that the children took part in as well as a tennis demonstration done by the children. The second and third parts focused on the performing arts aspect of the camp. There was a drumming performance done by the children in addition to a dance that was choreographed by the camp’s volunteer Dance Instructor. It was great to see how happy and excited the campers were to present what they have learned to everyone. I felt very lucky to have helped and be included in such a great friendly community.
Throughout the year, I spent time working with children for the Prep for Prep organization to help them prepare for standardized tests, as well as help them handle difficult material. During these three hour sessions, I would meet with a student in elementary school, and they would bring books of the classes they are struggling in, ranging from reading comprehension to state exam prep, and we would sit down and go over problems. During these sessions, I learned a lot about not only the art of teaching, but also about how well I understood the material I learned at a younger age. Even the most basic functions such as long division, seeming simple to me now, were relatively difficult to explain to a student who didn’t understand them because it seemed to general to explain. This process of trying to explain very general topics made me not only appreciate my teachers from my youth, but I also sympathized with the children themselves.
Over spring break I cooked meals for the Friends shelter a couple times. I cooked dinner, dessert, and breakfast and then delivered the meals to the shelter. When I arrived at the shelter, all of the beds were set up and I met some nice people who volunteered to work at the shelter that night. It was really great to be able to do something so closely connected to my school. I think it is really amazing that Friends’ quaker values are alive at all hours of the day, and it is helping people in need even when most people are sleeping. Living in New York, I think we all see a lot of homelessness. I pass by a man everyday in the subway who is so skinny and has a sign blessing anyone who can do anything to help him. As New Yorkers we are trained to stay away from and avoid eye contact with strangers, so it was nice for me to finally be able to actually “make eye contact” and do my part to help with the huge problem of homelessness in NYC.
On March Sixth, I went on over with several people from Friends Seminary to Hotel Pennsylvania near the Flatiron District to participate in Project Cicero in order to sort used books from massive piles into differing categories to supply libraries in Public Schools, homeless shelters and other unappreciated areas. I felt a connection to this service event because I enjoy reading a good book every now and then, but when I was younger and in another school, which was public, our library would have essentially no books aside from Encyclopedias and a few other books that were either boring, or for earlier readers. So with this event, hopefully I was able to help better a few teacher’s libraries, and help to encourage young people to read fascinating books. I found that looking through the thousands of books and placing them in their respective cardboard boxes was relaxing, and if I was ever confused on a book’s categorization, several veterans of the organization were eager to help. While I cannot directly see the benefit of Project Cicero’s distribution of books to Public School teachers, I have confidence that somewhere, my efforts helped to make a difference for the better, while in other events I did not feel as though I was making a difference in my community. I also enjoyed being surrounded by fellow classmates, and I hope that Friends Seminary will organize more of these groups that travel to a service event, as this group event felt much more rewarding than other out-of-school service events. I will most definitely be attending next year’s Project Cicero event, and will encourage classmates to join in as well.
For the past year, a few other students and I have been working with GEMS, an organization focused on combating sex trafficking in New York City. In November, a few of my peers and I organized a booth in the main lobby at which students filled out sheets that were part of GEMS’s “A World For Girls” campaign. At the booth, we also had a drive for beauty products for survivors of sex trafficking working with GEMS. Students filled out sheets at our booth that stated, “I want to live in a world where girls are ___.” We then hung the completed sheets around the school.
Reading the sheets filled out by students of all ages was incredibly inspiring. The responses ranged from “president of the united states” to “not for sale.” Many students expressed enthusiasm about empowering women and young girls and were eager to contribute to the supplies to which the survivors had access.
For the service-learning project, my group, which consisted of Zara, Rio, Jay, Javin, and I, selected sex trafficking as our social issue. Sex trafficking, or sexual exploitation, involves the act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring, or receiving a person through the use of force, coercion, or other means for the purpose of sexually exploiting them. Commercial sexual exploitation is a painful reality for more than 3,000 children in New York City, yet many people are unaware that the issue even exists in the five boroughs. Since pimps find children to be easily manipulated, the average individual in the commercial sexual exploitation industry of New York City has become a twelve-year-old girl, which I found to be incredibly disturbing. Yet due to the endless effort of GEMS, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, girls and young women from ages 12 to 24 are being safely transitioned out of the life of sex trafficking, educated, and empowered to become strong, independent women. Founded by Rachel Lloyd, a victim of sexual exploitation in Britain, GEMS emphasizes the importance of every girl in the New York City community. GEMS also offers services such as court mandated sessions in which girls are given medical care, treated for sexually transmitted diseases and infections that are common for sexually exploited girls, and taught how it feels to truly be cared for without the demand of sexual favors in return. The staff members of GEMS forge relationships with each girl they aid, provide both crisis and transitional housing, and assist girls in enrolling to educational institutions.
As I was able to learn more about the issue of sex trafficking, I often became upset with the fact that I was previously extremely ignorant of the suffering that occurred in my own community. Initially, the issue of sex trafficking seemed too large to conquer; however, once I understood the practices of GEMS, I realized that each girl is an individual, just like me, and if I could just help one girl in New York City, I would make an enormous difference and change her life forever. Thinking of the commercially sexually exploited girls and young women as individuals like me prompted me to feel as if I had a responsibility to help them. I also realized that educating populations as a whole about sex trafficking is essential in combating the issue. If people are aware that sex trafficking exists, they too will hopefully strive to eradicate commercial sexual exploitation. Every presentation that we made as a group may have caused someone to become as passionate about eliminating sexual exploitation as my group and I. Over the course of the project, I became increasingly hopeful that my group and I could make a genuine difference in the lives of numerous people in the New York City community. I also was able to improve both my public speaking skills and much needed ability to be more concise. In my opinion, the most challenging aspect of the project was to fit the entire presentation into a ten- minute period. I believed that every fact about sex trafficking and every feature of GEMS was important to share with our audience. My group’s original presentation introducing the social issue ran for fifteen minutes, and it was challenging to decrease the time interval.
I have remained in contact with GEMS, and I plan to continue educating as many people as possible about the vast issue of sex trafficking. I also plan to further connect GEMS to Friends Seminary as well as to attend fundraisers with my group that support GEMS and their extraordinarily positive influence on New York City.