I worked many Saturdays this year with 2nd and 3rd grade boys and girls who came to Steady Buckets to learn and to practice basketball skills. I helped the kids during shooting and basketball drills. The program was for some of the players the first time they ever touched a basketball and for others, they had been playing basketball since kindergarten. Every player seemed happy to be at the gym, and they knew the volunteers like me and the coaches like Coach Macky love basketball so much. I tried to make sure every player knew that he could grow up to be a high school player if he practiced enough and really had a passion for the sport. I think the kids liked my enthusiasm and my cheering each one on.
During my time in politics class, I had the opportunity to research and compare the platforms of both presidential candidates. This was not only interesting, but it helped show me, my class, and the rest of the upper school the actual wording of both candidates and not be distracted by the media narratives surrounding them. Through this project, I learned more about how media coverage shapes my opinions and how to better research political issues so that I can be a more involved citizen.
Going to South Africa was life changing. Not only were we able to have an impact on the people we met and the places we went, we were able to look in the mirror and change ourselves and change the way we think. We were able to stay in a township with the people of Red Location, learn about their lives, learn about their culture, and their history. Developing a bond with the people of South Africa made the trip even more amazing. We were giving the opportunity to have authentic interactions with the people and do real work that would have an impact on their lives. One moment that sticks out is when we visited the Methodist Church of South Africa and we helped them with their community outreach. We went with members of the church into the homes of people who could not make it to church and needed extra support spiritually, emotionally, and with their living supplies. Seeing the impact the church was able to make on its home-stricken members was very eye-opening. It also made me feel more aware of the different types of outreach provided by various groups.
For my 2015 Spring Break, I went to Peru with 12 other students. It was an extremely rewarding experience and one that I feel everyone should have a chance to experience. The start of our trip was a little rough because our flight was delayed until the next day and then another hour and a half on Sunday March 15. However, once we arrived in Lima all of the trouble didn’t seem to matter anymore. When we arrived in Lima, we went to a local park and sat on the grass. We then had an amazing lunch where I tasted cerviche for the first time, and then headed back to the airport for our flight to Juliaca. We stayed in a hotel in Juliaca our first night, and from that point we lived everyday to the fullest. Over the course of 2 weeks, we visited Puno, Cusco, and The Amazon Rainforest. One the most memorable moments for me was when we visited the Uros Islands on Lake Titicaca and got to meet some of the people that lived there. They were so welcoming and friendly and it was amazing to see how efficient the people living on these islands were. Walking through the streets of Puno and visiting markets and churches was also a great experience. One day, after we went to dinner we were taking a city tour of Puno and a family came up to me and asked if their children could take a photo with me. At the time I thought it was strange, but it is a moment I will never forget.
This trip was in collaboration with a program called Envoys. We had three leaders from Envoys who were on our trip with us. Angela, Flaco and Ahava are honestly some of the nicest, spirited, open-minded and adventurous people I have ever met. I can’t imagine going on a trip with any other leaders. Another amazing place we visited on our trip was Machu Picchu. After waking up at 4:30, and hiking the Inca Trail surrounded by fog, one might think that the experience wasn’t as enjoyable. However, when the fog cleared up, Machu Picchu was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. Seeing Machu Picchu after learning about the Incas throughout our trip really made me appreciate their architecture and skill.
We spent our final days in the Amazon Rainforest where we completed our service project. We planted different types of trees such as cacao, mango and banana. After planting, one of the families we met gave us grapefruit and coconut water to cool down. Hearing all the sounds while we were planting reminded me of how lucky I was to be able to be doing what I was doing. The following day we planted trees on the land of a man named Felix. He told us about his life and taught us how to use his bow and arrow. I wasn’t very good at it but it was great to see all of my friends and chaperones try as well.
Traveling to Peru provided me with an experience that I will never forget and I hope to continue to travel to different parts of the world and experience other cultures as well.
My YPI group that consisted of Ashley, Edie, Esme and Bryan researched and worked on the social issue of teen pregnancy. We chose this issue because we wanted to help kids in the city and we wanted to combat an issue that involved families. We chose to research and visit Covenant House. Covenant House is a rather large organization that focuses on harboring and helping homeless youth across the United States but there are also some branches of the non-profit organization in South and Central America. The branch of Covenant House in New York City is on 42nd street, but we just focused on the Mother-Child branch of Covenant House that is on 51st street. This branch of Covenant House is much smaller, with a much smaller annual budget than the whole non-profit. Nevertheless, Covenant House was very nice, felt comfortable and safe and it was very providing for the girls who were staying there.
Going into the YPI project I thought that any organization that we chose to visit would have the same out-look on teen pregnancy, and I thought that out-look or mission would be to stop teens from getting pregnant and preventing sex and pregnancy. However, the Covenant House’s first priority was not to prevent pregnancy but to help and support teen mothers after they are pregnant and if they already had a baby. Also, since Covenant House is a Christian organization, they cannot ask the mothers or other teens to use birth control or contraceptives. Nevertheless, I was still very surprised and moved about how the organization respected the girls even after the girls had made the mistake of getting pregnant and how the organization raises the girls up with hope instead of breaking them down with guilt. Furthermore, I am not a very comfortable public speaker, so I thought the presentation in the meetinghouse helped me work on those skills. Also, going to the Covenant House with my group made me get closer with them and gave me a sense of leadership and independence. I thought the project was both rewarding and challenging. It was challenging because getting the presentation together and finding a way to meet with our entire group was hard for many of us have tough schedules during the week and weekends. However, the project was very awarding because after we presented in the meetinghouse, I had a great feeling that we gave the project and the presentation all our effort and we had a profound effect on everyone we were presenting to on our social issue.