For my out of school service this year I worked at Tompkins Square during MulchFest in the fall. A few other Friends’ students and I helped spread mulch throughout the park to nurture the growth and prosperity of the plants in the park. The mulch was made up of New Yorkers’ Christmas trees and wreaths which they had brought to the park and put in the wood chipper. Our group took turns between moving the mulch in wheelbarrows and spreading the mulch out with rakes. When we finished after 4 long, tiring hours it was very satisfying to see how much progress we had made. All of the people working at the park that day were enthusiastic and kind which made everyone feel welcome. Working at the park was very meaningful to me because I was recycling something as well as helping the environment. Most of my service this year pertained to the environment from the MulchFest to the Plant Sale, to the Flint Water Crisis: All of this means a lot to me.
Last Friday, I volunteered in helping out with D.R.A. Before the show started, I helped gather donations from people coming to watch the show, and I helped man the bake sale. I then stayed for the show which was really exciting because it was the first time I had been to a D.R.A performance. After it ended, I helped clean up, shut down the bake sale, and helped collect any last minute donations. It was a great experience watching, and helping with the show.
This summer I was a counselor in training at a camp called Camp Dark Waters in Medford, New Jersey. Camp Dark Waters is a quaker summer camp for less privileged kids on a creak with dark waters, hence the name. One of my most fond memories from this summer was helping a seven year old boy named AJ get his Bowman. Bowmen are campers who pass a series of canoeing challenges. AJ was shy and homesick almost all of the time, so I was surprised when he approached me and asked for my help on getting his Bowman. I agreed and in less than a week there was only one out of twenty challenges left. The last challenge was called unswamping, it requires two campers to lift a fifty pound canoe filled with water above their heads and flip it to drain it. AJ failed the first three times, unable to pick the canoe up over his head. On the fourth time he mustered all of his strength and was able to pick the canoe up. It took the rest of his strength to hold it above his head for the thirty seconds needed to empty the canoe of all of its water. After thirty seconds we put the canoe down and he started crying. For the rest of camp he was more social and wasn’t at all homesick. On the last day when he was being pick up before he introduced me to his parents saying that I changed his whole camp experience. Those words made me reflect on the maybe twenty minutes I had spent with him canoeing over the summer. The little work I had put in made the difference for his whole summer, and that amazed and motivated me to keep working on the little things that really counted.
This summer, I was a teen intern at the Central Park Zoo. I have been doing programs at the Zoo ever since I was in Lower School and always loved seeing animals from different parts of the world. All throughout my three weeks at the zoo, we made enrichment for animals. Enrichment encourages an animal’s natural behavior. The animals are interested in the enrichment and examine it. Some enrichment can be found in food form or involve a clever way to hide food. We made burlap braids for the red pandas and wove bamboo into it. We also got long pieces of bamboo and rubbed mint and basil from the Zoo’s browse garden for the grizzly bears. Besides making enrichment, we had an hour a day to assist zoo keepers. We were each assigned two of the four zones at the Zoo (Polar and Tropic or Temperate and Children’s Zoo). I spent the first half of the teen internship in the Polar Zone doing fish breakout (weighing capelin and herring), scrubbing poop off penguin rocks, cleaning the fridge covered in fish remnants, and cleaning sock filters. We couldn’t take any photos because it is “behind the scenes,” where the general public doesn’t go. In the Tropic Zone, we cleaned hedgehog cages, chuckwalla enclosures, and helped the keepers feed the birds. On the last few days of the internship, we worked on our final project, aiming to educate the Zoo’s visitors about the Wildlife Conservation Society‘s new campaign to protect the NY Harbor, Blue York. We were split up into groups, and mine got people to write pledges on dry erase boards and then take a picture with it (Ex: I pledge to clean up my trash at the beach). Others got people to participate in trivia and had people sign a thank you card for the local fisherman who kindly agreed to stop fishing in an area with coral reef. I miss working with with the animals so much and really love the idea of educating the public about animals at zoos, making them fall in love with the them and support conservation efforts.
The New York Foundling, is the non profit organization that helps treat addicts, and lead them to recovery. When I first began with this project, I chose this social issue because I thought addiction was a problem, and that it’s a social issue that needs to be payed attention to. However, over the course of the researching, going to the non profit, and presenting, I realized that it was much more than an issue of addiction in New York.
What I came to see and realize, is that addiction is much more than just one social issue; it’s many. Addiction is the result of many social issues, and it’s the cause of many social issues. It seems to touch so many other problems in New York City and the world, making me realize just how important it is to start treating addiction. Doing this project helped me realize the sort of vicious ongoing circle so many people can not get out of. One who becomes an addict, can then start performing poorly at work, possibly leading to them being fired, now with no job and spending their money on drugs or alcohol they can’t pay rent, and can eventually become homeless. Just in that example, addiction led to being jobless, in poverty, and eventually homeless. Before doing YPI, I hadn’t seen how difficult it is to be caught up in that lifestyle. YPI also opened my eyes to how simple it can be to help. Even volunteering just a couple hours to places like our non profit could benefit immensely.
Just this one project taught me so much, and helped me understand so much more about the city that I live in. Before YPI, I didn’t see just how tied together these social issues are. It was overall, an amazing experience.
(I wasn’t able to attend my site visit.)
For almost three weeks me and my classmates participated in a service project called YPI, short for youth and philanthropy initiative. The goal of the project is to get teens involved in problems in our communities. Everyone was put into groups of three to five kids. Each group was told to choose a non-profit in New York. My team choose a group called City Squash, based in the Bronx. City Squash helps underprivileged children with their school work, while teaching them squash at Fordham University. When we visited their small offices in the Bronx I could immediately see the dedication of the kids and the people helping them. This really opened my eyes to this huge problem throughout the country. Throughout the project I kept thinking about the dedication and it really motivated me. While giving the final presentation I felt good about what I had done. I knew it didn’t matter wether we won or lost because we raised awareness about the issue to the whole community. During the project I really developed better public speaking skills. After the project I have stayed in touch with the organization and I have been thinking about volunteering there this summer.
My group and I chose the topic “LGTBQ Youth” for our YPI project. Originally, we were planning on doing the LGBTQ Community as a whole, but decided on focusing on the youth in order to have a more personal experience while working on the project. I learned not only many alarming facts and statistics that had to do with teen bullying, discrimination, and even suicide related to the LGBTQ community, but also heard many personal stories and ways to prevent these events. My group chose to partner with an organization called GLSEN http://www.glsen.org/ . This non-profit helps educate both adults, teens, and children in schools about LGBTQ Youth and the discrimination they face. They offer programs and lessons to help provide each LGBTQ Youth member a friend or adult that they know they can trust and talk to if needed. When meeting with the New York City chapter’s executive, Eliza, we discussed how the $5,000 grant could be used and who it would benefit. We concluded that it would be best to use the 5k to create programs to educate parents and help build a safer environment at home, as that is where most teens spend their time. I learned a lot from this project, and feel that it really benefited me socially and made me realize how much I can do to help the community. My group and I plan on keeping in touch with GLSEN.
At the beginning of the YPI Project we were trying to decide what social issue to study and I suggested hunger since I had volunteered with city harvest recently. Even though I had done service to help with the issue I didn’t know much about it and wanted to know more. When I started researching it I realized how much bigger the issue was and how different it was from what I previously thought. I really learned how to research better during this project and how to take statistics and make it interesting.
The hardest part of the project for me was presenting. I always have a hard time speaking in front of people and this was no exception. Even though there were difficulties it was still rewarding to be able to share our hard work with other people.
I really enjoyed visiting the POTS facility. It was amazing to see the kitchens and all the people they could seat to feed them healthy meals. The pantry was very elegant and was made so the families could feel like they were shopping in a real store. We interviewed Jack Marth, director of service, and he told us all about the work they do for hungry people and the different services they provide. I will definitely consider doing service with them in 10th grade because they are such a great organization.
My YPI project was focused on helping unemployed veterans. My partnere were Lily, Kiki, Patrick, and Christian and our organization was called IAVA, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Before this project I knew that unemployment was a serious problem in the United States but not among veterans.
In this project I found going on our site visit very rewarding. It was great seeing what our organization had done. I found presenting it hard though because the class was not there with us and couldnt see what we saw in detail. Now that I know how much of a problem unemployment is among veterans, I am going to try to help this organization.
The Innocence Project is a non-profit striving to exonerate wrongfully convicted citizens through DNA testing and reforming of the criminal justice system. My group, which consists of Camilo Durr, Natalie White, and Richard Omar Payne, chose the Innocence Project specifically because of its progams training law enforcement. Our social issue, police misconduct, is one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions. For our site visit, we visited the Innocence Project’s head quarters in New York. We were led into a conference room and interviewed one of their policy associates, Daniel Lehrman. He told us that the Innocence Project sometimes holds a few-day-long training seminars retraining law enforcement. They don’t try to impose new ideas on them, but try to have a healthy, productive relationship with law enforcement. The Innocence Project will provide them with materials for retraining, too. When we asked Mr. Lehrman what the Innocence Project would do with the $5,000 grant, he flipped the question on us by asking us what we would like it to go to. Interested in its retraining programs, we said we would like it to go to the retraining of police officers.
My attitude towards police misconduct has not changed. Before doing the YPI project, I thought it was horrible. After doing the YPI project, my thoughts are even more concrete. One thing, however, changed in my mind. I knew that a lot of people get wrongfully convicted each year, but I never took the time to realize that 1) wrongful conviction is a serious issue 2) that police misconduct is one of the leading causes of it. I started to hate police misconduct when I first heard about Furgeson. Then Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and countless other people subject to police misconduct. It’s horrible, especially when officers aren’t disciplined in any serious ways. After talking to Mr. Lehrman and researching the Innoncence Project, I realized that wrongful convictions is a problem in itself, but is still very much related to police misconduct. The average amount of time one of the Innocence Project’s exonerates spend in jail is 14 years! Some exoneres were on death row for a crime they didn’t commit. By doing YPI, I realized how big of a problem wrongful conviction is and realized that police misconduct is worse that I initially thought it was.
It was difficult to make our presentation. It was recommended to have as little text as possible (a photo-based presentation), but still convey the non-profit’s mission, progams, relation to the social issue, the social issue itself, and how we were personally affected by the site visit. Plus, we had our site visit only two weeks before the in-class presentation, which determined if we could move on to finals or not. I believe that my presentation-making skills and presenting skills have improved over the few months leading up to the final presentation. I learned how to manage my time and that it is not a good idea to stay up till 12:00 a.m. on the phone with one of your partners, frantically trying to perfect the presentation, script, and Wiki Project?
The most rewarding part of doing YPI was the finals. Even though my group won the $5,000 grant, I was proud of us for making it to finals and presenting in front of a panel of judges and the whole grade about a social issue we are passionate about. It was nice to share all our research and our great non-profit, the Innocence Project, with everyone. I hope to remain in touch with the Innocence Project in some way, but right now, I’m not sure how. It would be great if we had a bake sale or did a school project for them next year.