My group wanted to address children’s education as our social issue because a child has a higher chance of being successful and not falling into poverty later in life if they receive a good education. The less people living in poverty, the closer we are to breaking the cycle so many people in New York City have become a part of. I think my group made a good decision when we chose The Children’s Aid Society as our non-profit organization. Although we focused on their Early Education services, Children’s Aid also provides 14 other programs allowing children and families to get the help and support they need. During this project I learned not only about Children’s Aid and how they help the community, but also about how important education really is to children. When we visited Children’s Aid I was informed of how easily influenced children are during the rapid period of brain development in first years of their life, as well as Children’s Aid’s methods of teaching, and building cognitive functions and organization skills. The knowledge I acquired over the course of the project has made me much more aware of the social issue and poverty in New York City as a whole.
I found the project rewarding in several respects. I not only had the opportunity to learn about a chosen non-profit and share with others what I had learned, but was made aware of other social issues and the organizations that address them by the presentations from the rest groups. Perhaps what I think was most rewarding about working with the Youth Philanthropy Initiative was knowing that regardless of whether my group won or lost, an organization was being funded to help eradicate a worthy issue in society.
I had heard on the news that 9/11 was a National Day of Service to commemorate the events of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City that left many dead and some missing, however, after nearly two decades, I never had actually acknowledged their lives by my own participation in this national event. That is, until Sunday, 9/15/2013. Every year, for incoming freshmen and their parents, Friends Seminary organizes a 9/11 Day of Service event. On that Sunday, both Friends Seminary parents and 9th grade students begin the day with a communcal breakfast and then we’re divided into groups that volunteer with partner nonprofits. My group worked with Dorot. Following an informative Orientation at their headquarters, we delivered food to the elderly who either live alone, or with a caretaker and had a chat with them for about an hour. This was a great opportunity to get to know other incoming freshmen, while at the same time giving back to the community.
We delivered food to Mrs. B, someone who actually witnessed the attack, when the planes purposely and suicidally crashed into the World Trade Twin Towers. She had been a front line witness in the event that devastated New York and a part of its glory. She had a caretaker and two daughters and a grandson, who did not live with her. It was her nephew that lived in New York City, visited her once a week and called every night. She was very, very interesting, even if there were times of awkward silence. I mean I’m not really what people would consider a social person, but along with my mother, Zara, and her mother, we made a great group. I learned a lot about the troubles she has nowadays, where she originally came from (Germany), and why she doesn’t go outside so much nowadays (she has to take a wheelchair, which is not compatible with sidewalks of New York City). She had a beautiful apartment, but it was clear what she lacked was contact with other people. It took so little to give her that social interaction she so clearly needed. During this day of volunteering, I felt connected to my fellow students, the school community, and Ms. B. In many ways, I benefited as much as Ms. B from the experience.
To all those lives lost and all of those that were destroyed, know that you are forever remember in the hearts of all those that know of the 9/11 attack.
-Fatoumata Mbaye, Class of 2017
For the past four years I have helped elementary and middle school students at the Opportunity Charter School with their reading comprehension. These students read at low levels, and my goals are to help them become better readers and to boost their confidence and educational outcomes.
I sit with the students while they do their assigned reading. When reading a story, I ask the students to imagine themselves in the character’s situation. We discuss the differences between the personalities of the characters in comparison to themselves, ultimately leading the students to a better understanding of the characters. When talking about a story, I also ask the students why they think a certain scene is important to the greater whole of the plot. By getting the students to think in broader terms and not just think about what they see exactly in front of them on the page, they are able to better understand a story.
This year, I was really excited to be the leader of the HELP, Helping Everyone Less Privileged, student activity. In the past, we have had many successful dinners with guests from adult homeless shelters. This was the first year that we invited guests from a teen shelter. For our first dinner, we made macaroni and cheese, collard greens, fried chicken and biscuits. We all came together over a competitive game of Pictionary at the end of the night. However, the best part of the night was definitely talking with the teens and realizing that, though we come from different situations, we all have stories to tell.
Everyone at the HELP dinner came from completely different backgrounds. However, we were all able to come together for a really fun night. Despite all of our differences, we realized that we had a lot in common. This dinner was right around the inauguration so Beyoncé lip-syncing was a big topic of conversation; everyone had an opinion! At the end of the night, we all left full of good food and really excited for the next HELP dinner. I have become aware of how lucky I am to be going to such a great school in which I have amazing opportunities.
The seniors took a break to take a quick picture while cooking in the kitchen.
The Learning Spring School (source: http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-product-design/nice-shades-on-new-yorks-learning-spring-school.html)
Ever since my first year at Friends, I have been volunteering at the Learning Spring Elementary School at the corner of 20th Street and 2nd Avenue. Founded in 2001, the school educates high-functioning children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (HF-ASD). Learning Spring helps children from an early age to gain skills that they need to function in the wider world. During my time volunteering at the school, I have helped out wherever I have been needed, from giving kids a hand at the library to teaching them how to type in the computer lab.
I first found out about Learning Spring shortly after I started at Friends Seminary in tenth grade. Hoping to find out about some of the service opportunities nearby Friends, I met with Rachel Peterson, Friends’ Director of Community Service at the time, and she mentioned that Learning Spring would accept student volunteers. She noted that Friends had a partnership with the Learning Spring whereby children from Learning Spring would periodically come to Friends to play with the children there. Volunteering at Learning Spring seemed like a fascinating and rare opportunity, so with Rachel’s help I quickly established my volunteering relationship with the school. During my time volunteering at Learning Spring, I have been able to help make the lives of some of the school’s children just a little better. My time at the school has also made me more patient and understanding as I have helped the children with their behavioral difficulties and have gotten to know both them and the teachers over the years. I have immensely valued my time volunteering at Learning Spring.
On Monday, January 28th, Ben Frisch’s Statistics class was offered the opportunity to help the NYC Department of Homeless Services conduct the Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE). HOPE relies on thousands of volunteers to canvass parks, subways, and other public spaces to count the number of people living unsheltered in the city. The information gathered by volunteers during HOPE 2013 is critical to the city’s ongoing efforts to fight homelessness.These figures help determine need and establish progrms and budget allocations. The annual survey also helps the Mayor’s office track the stats of homelessness in our city.
Our task was to patrol assigned blocks in groups of three, asking census questions to each person we came into contact with, and recording those results for the information of the HOPE Foundation. All answers were confidential, unless the interviewee at hand needed help. To add to the excitement of this project, the survey was to be conducted at night, between the hours of 12 AM to 4 AM.
We showed up at our assigned Greenwich Village training location at 11 PM and learned more about the nature of the program, how to ask our questions, and what to do if we found ourselves in dangerous situations. Volunteers were to disperse throughout the city, to all five boroughs. At midnight, we took the subway to our assigned Midtown locations and got to work. This task was especially pertinent to our Stats class because we’d been learning about what characterized a proper, fair sample and how to a simple, random one. We knew the importance of the census data we were planning on taking, so we wanted our sample to be as unbiased as possible with a very low margin of error. All people needed to have equal chance to be chosen for the census questions. We knew we needed to avoid bias (or false values based on polling choices) by sticking to our proper routes and not simply conducting surveys based on our own convenience. We knew we needed to ask each person the survey questions, no matter whether or not we thought we could tell in advance if they were homeless. Those would have been some sources of bias that we were wary of avoiding.
The actual conducting of the survey proved very interesting. Though we walked in the cold for over 3 hours at night, the work was enjoyable. As we were in a sketchy neighborhood at a sketchy time, my favorite part was talking to people I was initially nervous talking to. I liked seeing how gentle, charismatic, and nice strangers on the street were when I asked them questions and how willing they were to help out with our project. Though I hope not to be walking through Midtown at 3:30 AM any time soon, I feel as if I conquered some sense of fear through this project. The results of our data will help the city account for what more they can do to aid the issue of homelessness, so I know our work was beneficial. The loss of sleep was worth it for the edifying experience of conducting this survey at night. I particularly enjoyed the connections to what I had been learning all semester in class. It was great having a chance to see Stats played out in the real world.