School ends in June, but community service never stops! Summer 2017 is no exception, and Saint Ann’s students are volunteering at a wide variety of organizations. Read about their experiences below!
Additionally, we are periodically updating our webpage with upcoming opportunities suitable for Saint Ann’s students and their families, centering on issues ranging from the environment, education, and homelessness. Click here for a snapshot of these opportunities.
The GO Project – Chloe F. (11th Grade)
Note: Founded in 1968, The GO Project provides tutoring and learning services for struggling elementary school students at the Grace Church School in Greenwich Village. For more information about the GO Project, visit their website at: goprojectnyc.org.
This past summer I had the opportunity to work at the GO Project summer internship program. The GO Project is a nonprofit that helps students from under resourced schools by providing after school programs and a six week summer school course. I was placed with a rising fourth grade class and helped as an assistant teacher, tasked with running errands for the head teacher, teaching reading and phonetic lessons, as well as teaching a lesson of my own design on gender stereotypes. The program also included a weekly hour long session during which interns gathered in groups of twenty and discussed social justice issues with an emphasis on their influence in the classroom.
As incredible as it was to be able to help these kids with their academic success and see them improve over the course of only six weeks (one student went from being held back to a grade, to being able to graduate to the next year!), the experience was pretty fulfilling for me as well. I know my academic privilege in attending a school like Saint Ann’s, yet no matter how aware I am of my privilege, it’s hard to have a true sense of it until actually seeing and interacting with students from struggling public schools across the city. One student said he wanted to be a graffiti artist when he was older, and while the teachers tried their best to explain the dangers of that ‘profession,’ he explained that his father did graffiti all the time. Students cursed at teachers and demonstrated a level of disrespect not seen at a school like Saint Ann’s.
Even though GO students come from families pretty dedicated to their child’s education (GO is a 6-8 year program that runs on Saturdays during the school year), the journey that a student must travel before they even reach the classroom door has such a profound impact on what they can attain from their education. And then when they have arrived, the educational system is undoubtedly flawed. I can’t pretend to speak with any authority, yet even in a program like the GO Project, which prides itself on having a holistic approach and putting emphasis on equity rather than equality, the classroom I worked in still seemed to be geared to those that already showcased academic aptitude rather than those who were really struggling. I don’t want it to seem as though students or teachers are to blame. I never fully grasped the concept of educational reform until this program. We hear the phrase all the time, and we know the steps that educational reformists list, but until this summer I didn’t really know the entire scope of benefit these reforms could have, or how they could trickle down into the bigger picture. This culture of categorization and optimization to those already on the right path have to do with the educational system as a whole.
Change has been incremental at best, nonexistent at worst. However, the program we were all a part of was able to alleviate educational grievances in at least a small way. I can be the optimist in saying that education in and of itself does try to equalize the playing field, yet this belief is one quite far from practice. This program was an introduction to this ongoing conversation on educational equity, and the ability to contribute in a more attuned way was one of the greater things I gained from GO.
Appalachian Mountain Club – Oliver S. (11th grade)
This past summer, I did 10 days of trail work in central Maine for the Appalachian Mountain Club. We were building a new trail for hiking and cross-country skiing in a part of the KI Jo-Mary forest owned by the AMC between Greenville and Brownville in central Maine. I stayed at a campsite in the woods with 7 other volunteers, and we slept in large canvas tents on wooden platforms. Each morning, we woke up early to eat breakfast at the campsite and then drove out to the trailhead. When we arrived, we took out the tools that would be used for the day: pick-mattocks, which are pickaxes with a wide end for clearing loose roots and dirt; shovels for taking out and moving parts of the trail, single and double jack hammers (not power tools) for breaking rocks, shears for cutting away roots, and rock bars, which are long metal rods that are used as levers for pushing heavy rocks out of the way.
The general routine of the day would be to clear away the upper soil of a new section of trail, which is made of decomposed organic material and erodes quickly, and fill it back up to ground level with crushed rocks. Then, mineral soil, which has a redder color and holds up to weather much better, covers the top of the rocks for the surface of the trail. Mineral soil is usually about 2 feet underground, so we spent a lot of time digging pits in the woods to fill up buckets of mineral soil to dump on the trail. Once there was a thick layer of mineral soil on top, we smoothed it down so that the trail was sloped on one side for drainage.
After hours of working and building a trail, finishing a section by dumping differently colored dirt on top of dirt and rocks is surprisingly satisfying. It was pretty slow work, but we made good progress and it was also satisfying to walk down the new trail at the end of the day. The experience itself was a lot of fun, and it felt good to be building something that’s hopefully going to be used for years, as well as having the opportunity to be out in nature and do useful work at the same time. There were a few drawbacks, like swarms of biting flies and having dirt covered hands and arms pretty much the entire time, but I would definitely do it again.