I volunteered to setup and help out at this years spring fair. I had to carry tables, inflate balloons, place chairs and more. At first, even though I was happy to help out, I became tired from all the work. I began wondering why I was inflating so many beach balls. But as the day progressed I started to see what our work was turning into. When we were done setting up the inner and outer courtyard looked amazing. I felt very satisfied to help create such a nice space for students and parents, however, I still had more work. The next day I got up early to work at the actual fair. When I got there it was quiet but an hour later the fair was very loud and lively. Everyone seemed pretty happy and having fun and I got to eat good cupcakes. I was glad to give back to the friends community.
Booker Travels is a website and webisode series that explores different cultures, using skateboarding, surfing, art, music, and food as a means to meet and communicate with locals. Some of the goals of the show are to encourage kids to explore the world around them and to show the energy and beauty of the places that we visit. This year we went on two major trips; Barbados and Puerto Rico. As I have begun to work more behind the scenes on the project, both filming and helping with production and direction, these trips were a little bit different from those done in the past. Yet, from eating freshly caught fish with roasted breadfruit with locals practicing voodoo rituals in Barbados to browsing a family’s private salsa record collection in Puerto Rico, we captured many unique cultural experiences through the perspective of locals.
While I am very proud of the success of these trips, the most rewarding and special project that I did this year was for Mount Sinai. Since December, Booker Travels has been used as a part of the therapy for children with terminal illnesses. The children, who have restricted or limited time outdoors, are watching episodes weekly from their rooms at the hospital to learn about the different locations that we have been to. To begin this project I visited the hospital’s media room and answered questions that the children and nurses had for a private 30 minute interview that was played on the TVs in the hospital rooms. To know that kids in troubling and scary circumstances are able to learn and explore the world through episodes that I have helped to create is a really amazing thing, and I look forward to continuing working in collaboration with Mount Sinai.
Over the past month I have been fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to assist a professor and researcher on the forefront of understanding Alzheimer’s, a neurodegenerative disease that affects one’s mental stability. There are no known cures to treat the disease, and therefore such research is absolutely necessary. Understanding Alzheimer’s more deeply on a molecular level provides useful information for projecting treatments that could be successful. The data collecting with my classmate Catherine and our teacher Vanaja, aids in the gathering of this minute data in hopes of providing additional statistical information for understanding the disease.
To conduct our research we have been performing a process called immunocytochemistry, which involves the staining of tissues with antibodies to locate specific proteins. This process has comprised of meticulously cleaning the brain tissue of preservatives, dyeing the tissue with antibodies, and mounting the tissue onto glass slides to be viewed under microscope. Due to the dye, tissues from Alzheimer’s possessing brains contain brown spots, while the normal tissue, our control group, is clear.
The procedure of creating the slides with the brain tissue and gathering the data has been incredibly enriching. Although the work is tedious, I enjoy feeling the positive emotion that is associated with working to cure a disease that affects around 44 million people worldwide. Besides the general side effect of feeling good for doing community service, there are more personal results as well. Alzheimer’s has had a large impact on my family, so partaking in this research has been a powerful and emotional experience. The work has strengthened my determination to find ways to combat the disease and has exposed me to new outlets for giving back to the community.
(Microscopic view of stained proteins in Alzheimer’s containing brain tissue)
In February, I volunteered at the Friends Art Preview. I choose to volunteer at this event because of my interest in art and art history. At the Preview, guests were able to view art that would be at the auction and bid on them, raising money for the school. At this event, I was able to converse to the many guests about different art pieces, discussing our different takes on the pieces of art. I also had many interesting conversations about school and life. There were a few alumni at this event, so it was interesting to hear what people did with their lives after they graduated Friends Seminary. Volunteering at this event was good for improving my people-skills, and I am glad to have been able to help out!
Over the course of this year and last year, I have participated in the the Robin Hood Teen Council, a branch of the Robin Hood Foundation which helps fight poverty in New York City. A group of students from all over the city comes to Robin Hood every month to attend Teen Council and learn about the metrics and measurements of poverty in New York City, as well as to hear from the social innovators who help to combat homelessness and hunger. Robin Hood has always inspired me–I have also attended the Fellows program over the summer, which provides an even more in-depth look at what is being done to fight poverty in New York.
I feel very lucky to have been a part of this program over the last two years. I highly Robin Hood Teen Council and/or Fellows for anyone looking to learn more about the problems our city faces and, more importantly, what we can do to help.
Below is Robin Hood’s website:
Over spring break I traveled to Jordan on the Arabic trip. While in Jordan we stayed at an Eco Park for two days. The Eco Park was a place where people could stay and learn about techniques to conserve energy and limit the amount of water used. We visited a bird hut that was made out recycled bottles filled with sand and stacked into a structure for bird watchers. While staying there my fellow travelers and I filled as many bottles as we could for the Eco Park to use in building their bird hut. Somehow the service turned into a competition between many of my classmates as everyone tried to fill their bottles with sand first. Employees at the Eco Park would check our finished bottles and beat them against the ground to pack the sand in, before sending us back with the newly exposed extra room. I never imagined it would be so hard to completely fill a bottle with sand but every time I thought I was finished the bottle would be shaken until more space was exposed and I had to go back to the sand pit and fill it up some more. The whole experience was very fun as we all raced to fill as many bottles as we could while Bram, Anna, and Leitzel looked on.
For service day I accompanied my advisory to the Hunts Point Cooperative Market, Food Bank‘s supply warehouse. After our long, yet scenic bus drive to the Bronx, our group was led to an open room with a T.V. screen. We were presented a video showing the impact of hunger on various individuals and families in New York City. The video exposed me to the troubles people face from a lack of adequate money for food, and later showed how Food Bank helps those in need to fight against hunger. After the video we were split up into smaller groups that were assigned different tasks, such as making boxes, packing food and other supplies, and sealing boxes for shipment. We were so efficient that we even surprised the supervisor who had to keep up with supplying us the items to package.
Besides our large success in packaging so many supplies, I had an amazing time. Working with my classmates and friends while helping those who are less fortunate was a win win scenario. The sense of satisfaction from knowing that my work would help others is of incredible magnitude. The fact that so many people suffer from hunger and a lack of other supplies is terrifying, but also makes me feel better about my accomplishments at the Food Bank. Overall, I felt that my work at the Food Bank warehouse was fulfilling and rewarding, and I look forward to experiencing similar success in future Service Days.
Earlier this month, I helped make bowls for the Empty Bowls project. The Empty Bowls Project is an effort to end hunger and raise awareness of how people are starving in the world. People make bowls that are sold to raise money for hunger fighthing organizations.
I enjoyed making the bowls because personally, I love art and making things with my hands. However, I wonder weather giving money to charity is as helpful as directly working with people who live in poverty and hunger. However, Empty Bowls (and the movie screened after the Empty Bowls event) does effectively raise awareness to the issue of world hunger. I look forward to making more bowls in the coming school year.
The Robin Hood Foundation is a wonderful philanthropic organization that offers outreach to teens seeking to learn more about poverty in New York City. Throughout the duration of the 2013/2014 school year, I attended monthly Teen Council meetings at the Robin Hood headquarters. I learned an incredible amount this year, being present for visits from food pantries such as P.O.T.S. in the Bronx to watching the acclaimed documentary “A Place at the Table.” All of these meetings allowed me to expand my knowledge of poverty beyond the statistics.
Robin Hood strives to show the members of its Teen Council that poverty is not just comprised of the people we see on the streets of New York or in the subway begging. It is single mothers struggling to make enough money to vanquish food insecurity; it is families going from shelter to dangerous shelter; its teenaged contingent is 40% LGBTQ teens who were abused or discriminated against in the very own homes, and teens who ran away from home and, after surfing couches, had to find a roof to sleep under more permanently. Poverty is an epidemic in America, and with it comes food insecurity and obesity from eating unhealthy foods when families are simply unable to afford the healthy alternatives.
Last summer I attended the Robin Hood Fellows program, a week-long exploration of poverty that is made up of tours of different sites whose common mission was to teach people more about poverty in New York City, or to provide jobs for those who needed them. I plan to take part in this program again this summer.
Robin Hood has truly expanded my base of knowledge regarding poverty in the city I have called home for 17 years. I am so happy to have been able to be a part of it this year, and I hope to continue as a part of it next year as well.
Below is a photo of our last Teen Council meeting for this school year.
Today I had a lot of fun creating a bowl for the “empty bowls” project at Friends. It was the first time I created a bowl and it was an amazing experience. I had the chance to design and shape every aspect of the bowl, to make it my own unique piece of art. It was a nice feeling because I was having fun and doing something that would contribute to helping others. People often think of community service as a job that they have to do but they fail to realize that it is possible to have fun and feel good doing it, and I realized that today. Thanks Empty Bowls!