Tile by Tile

The week had started off really well with the tour of all the campuses Monday. Since I want to become a social worker myself, I really enjoyed the tours and hearing from the leaders of the different campuses of Maryville Academy. However, I was really looking forward to meeting some of the children and adolescents in the Academy on Tuesday. When I found out we would be doing arts and crafts at the Madden home, I was very excited but also nervous. We had met some of the women living there the day before, and one did not seem to be very happy to see us at all.
The day came and our team was split up into two groups. One group did a beautiful job re-painting the walls of the dining room area. My group went into a different room and found out that we had the honor of contributing to the wall of tiles that had been started by the home. Each woman that gets to stay in this shelter gets to decorate a tile with whatever they want, usually an inspirational quote. Then their tile gets added to the growing tile wall, and it gives them a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves.
The women that stay at this shelter are under 21 and have given birth to a child, one that was 15. There were two women with newborns and they were the most adorable things! However it took a while to engage the women to make a tile with us and talk. After we asked some questions they became comfortable with us and told us a bit about themselves. We had an great time and I think the girls did as well. In the afternoon we made Valentines Day decorations with one very energetic and funny girl named Juanna (“you-wanna”). She told us stories of how she wanted to be a nurse one day because the ones she had treated her badly. After that we disinfected a bunch of the babies toys, which were really gross. Marisa and I also got to help do research for the classes our community partner teaches about life and parenting skills. As we were leaving, Juanna asked if we were coming back, which made me sad and happy at the same time because I knew we wouldn’t be, but I was glad that we had given her a little bit of joy that day. I was proud of the work we did, and felt we made a difference and learned so much.

An Educational Week

While in Chicago, I was opened up to a lot of new experiences that I never was currently aware of.  We started the week off with a little bit of sightseeing in Chicago, which helped us bond as a group.  The positivity that we gained as a group touring the city in freezing temperatures only increased as the week went on.

On Monday, our group visited the three campuses of Maryville Academy.  We joined the children at the different campuses in a celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. with a prayer service where we joined together in song.  Here, we met a lot of the children at Maryville Academy, and even got to talk to some of the boys about their future plans.  It was a good introduction to Maryville Academy, and allowed us to view where we would be helping out the rest of the week.

The rest of the week continued with us returned to both the Madden and Des Plaines campuses, where we got to know some of the kids better.  We started at Madden, and played card games with some of the girls with children.  This was a rewarding experience because we heard more about what some of the girls were going through.  I also participated in some crafts with some of the girls, while others in my group helped repaint a room in the house.  The craft we did was decorating tiles that would be hung on the wall, and it allowed us to interact with the girls creatively and see what quotes they were passionate about.  At first, it took some of the girls a little bit of time to warm up to us, but eventually they were very open with us.  One of the staff at the Madden home mentioned how one of the girls never talked much and she was really happy that she was opening up to us so much.

We finished the week at the boys campus, Des Plaines.  A group of us helped organize things in the gold warehouse and organize the Thrift Store, while others played basketball with some of the boys.  Even though I was not working hands on with the boys, I knew that the work that I was doing was going to help the boys on the campus.  Overall the week was very rewarding and I was able to learn a lot about the foster care system in Chicago.  I’m hoping that I can continue to bring what I learned in Chicago back to Easton and share what I learned about my social issue with people at Lafayette College.

not made of atoms but of tiny stories.

Yesterday was the last day of the ‘Pards On Wheels service trip, due to the impending snow storm. Following the same routine as always, (group breakfast, subway riding, getting instructions for the deliveries of the day) my partner Chris (AKA the deceitful cop—yes, I’m still livid over this) and I headed out of St. Malachy’s Church and walked toward 62nd street where we began our journey for the day.

Chris and I are also notorious for being the last ones to get back to the church. Hopefully this blog post will explain why.

We delivered meals to two women that really made an impact on our lives. The first was named Danielle. She invited us in, introduced us to her cat named Louis and told us about her amazing life. She studied theater at Carnegie Mellon and was a big advocate for the African American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. She showed us modeling photos from when she was our age, and boy, she was absolutely gorgeous. She looked at the photos with a hint of melancholic nostalgia in her eyes and told us, “Ah, I remember this girl. She was very pretty but very, very insecure.” Danielle showed us a ton of trinkets she had in her apartment from around the world, ranging from Japanese art to African hand carved wooden ornaments. I checked the time and discovered that we had been talking to Danielle for at least 45 minutes. We were both really upset that we had to leave, but I decided to ask her one piece of life advice she could give us.

She replied, “Never forget to stick up for yourself. You deserve it. Never feel like you don’t.”

She gave us a hug and as we said our goodbyes, her voice shook. I could hear in her voice the sound of tears that were about to surface as we left.


Interacting with the second woman was quite the experience. Her name was Clara. She had an aid and both only knew a few words in English. She invited us in as well! Chris communicated with Clara with broken, high school level Spanish, while I managed to use my knowledge of the Italian language (and Google translate as well, who am I kidding) to communicate. Before we knew it we were talking with Clara and her aid for well over 45 minutes. We knew we were running late on time so Chris and I tried to leave to deliver our remaining meals, however, they had cooked food and literally would not let us leave until we had some. As Clara pushed food onto our plates (even when we were full), she told us of her life in Argentina and her strained relationship with her daughter whom she had not talked to in over 15 years. We learned that all of her family doesn’t visit her because it is too expensive and they dislike New York. This really made me upset; I can’t even begin to fathom how that must make her feel. I checked the time and noticed it was 2PM (sorry, POW members) and told them we really had to leave. We hugged goodbye and were off delivering our last meals of the day. We literally sprinted through the streets of New York and made it back to the church by 2:12PM (on the dot!)


A beautiful thing about being human are the tiny, individual stories that comprise each and every one of us. This ASB trip was not only an opportunity to help those in need, but also an opportunity to hear and appreciate these stories from people who have already done it all. Thank you, Danielle and Clara for sharing your stories with us. I also want to give a big thank you to Matt for organizing this experience and always having a smile on your face. Last but not least, thank you to my wonderful teammates that really made this trip quite the experience. (The distance we walked on this trip was so great it could be comparable to Jupiter’s circumference, and the weather was not at all Lukewarm.) <3

I also want to give a shout out to Chris! Thanks for being my resilient partner and not crying even when all of our bags dropped in the middle of NYC traffic. Thank you for sharing your stories with me as well.

-Elizabeth (sorry this was so long lol)

Farewell POW

Due to the impending blizzard, today was the last day of the Pards On Wheels ASB trip.  Early this morning we embarked on our last day of delivering meals to homebound seniors we had gotten used to seeing each day.  Throughout the trip I felt like I gained a better understanding of the value of our service.  While at times the delivery schedule seemed routine, there were meaningful conversations and moments where some of the senior citizens needed help that highlighted the significance of our work.  Not only does this program provide necessary food, but it is a daily check in for many of the people we interacted with.   There were multiple times where I had to make calls because the seniors weren’t feeling well or needed help.  Also the gratitude from the service organization we worked with was very apparent.  The work we did was not easy or comfortable, and there must be volunteers who get up each day to lug the meal carts in the bitter cold.  I was so glad to give these people the break they deserved this week.

The POW ASB trip not only taught me about the different physical and economic issues that face the elderly, but introduced me to an extraordinary group of Lafayette students that I might not have otherwise had the opportunity to meet.  Being a freshman, this was my first experience with the ASB club and hopefully not my last.  Our team leader Matt Ackerman, did such a great job organizing and uniting this group of students who came from many different parts of the Lafayette campus, but had the common interest in learning more about different communities.  As a result we were able to have very insightful conversations and reflections about our social issue while still able to poke fun and make jokes with each other.  Ultimately, I am very thankful for the opportunity to participate in this ASB trip and the people who made the experience worthwhile.

A conversation for the books

Katy and Stacy: Howdy! Its Katy and Stacy here, reporting from POW!

Katy: This morning started early for me. I got up at 7am, and was out the door at 8 with Kathleen Parrish, one of our learning partners, to get coffee from Dunkin. It’s become my staple in this trip, having a coffee in hand.

Stacy:  Meanwhile, I was in bed watching youtube videos from 730-930 am…….life is empty when you’re finally done with your applications but your body decides to refuse to sleep in the one day you can sleep in. Geez. I can’t believe it’s Wednesday already!

Katy: Yeah! Time sure flies when you’re having fun….and when you’re distracted by all the  pain from walking for so long in the bitter cold. But, all of that was worth delivering food to senior citizens who aren’t able to face the cold themselves.

Stacy:  But actually! I honestly couldn’t imagine them having to go through that. I have so much respect for those volunteers who do this everyday. How did your deliveries go today?


Katy: It went really well! Today, Khulganaa and I were assigned to a new route, so we got to learn our way around some more of the west side. One apartment that sticks out in my memory was a hybrid hotel/apartment where I met Danielle and her cat Luis.

Stacy: Haha, you also met her cat?

Katy: Yeah! Danielle invited us inside to her apartment to meet her cat Luis. She told us that it was hard for her to get around since she is in a wheelchair, and that she loves meeting new people. She had just gotten off the phone with one of her friends in the apartment when we got there, who just informed her that we were on the way. I have noticed that the meal recipients are very thankful that they get to see our faces, and chat for a little bit. Danielle was especially talkative. She had so much to tell us about her life, and bestowed some wisdom to us about making it in the big city. And her cat was adorable! How did your deliveries go today, Stacy?

Stacy:  You know, the usual. Just countless hours of getting lost and aching feet….just kidding…. Since we had done this route before, it went rather smoothly. Actually, we met this rather interesting lady on our last stop who was, get this, a neuroscientist, but also a vocal coach. In fact, she offered to give us singing lessons right there at her door!

Katy:  Really?? Did you take it?

Stacy: Katy, we had like five minutes! We still had 10 meals to deliver. But I mean, she ended up telling us about the mechanics behind singing so I guess we ended up getting  a lesson anyway. Oh! Also, she told us that one of her students had like 20 cds (she wasn’t counting…. or so she said) and that her brother had 2 grammys! But she wouldn’t name drop so we have no way if this is even true.

Katy: Wow, that’s really cool. I think it’s really amazing that these elderly folks that we meet have led really interesting lives and we can learn a lot from their experiences.

Stacy: Yeah! And apparently they can still  bust a move. Remember the dance party that we walked into back at the community center? Emily and I heard the music from the elevators when we got back from delivering the meals and I got sooooo excited when I saw them all dancing. I jumped onto the dance floor before i even put my coats down and left poor emily to deal with the carts and extra meals we had left.

Katy: Oh yeah I remember that. Taha was having such a good time, if ya know what I mean. The older ladies really loved him. This one woman asked him to dance would not let him leave the dance floor.

Stacy: hahaha yeah!! that was hilarious to watch. Man, these ladies really know how to go after what they want! It was so funny watching all the boys getting snatched up. Definitely the highlight of my day. But I also really enjoyed the forum we went to about mental health at Columbia at night. It was so cool seeing all the knowledge that i had from my neuroscience classes being enacted in the real world.

Katy: Yeah, it was really cool to see what research is doing to help the treatment of mental health. I didn’t know their was a stigma associated with mental health within the african and latino community and how that prevents A LOT of people from seeking the help they need to feel better. But hands down the most entertaining moment was when he asked us to tell a partner what animal we would have sex with.

Stacy: OMG I COULDN’T TAKE THAT MOMENT!!  But hey, great conversations ensued from that hahaha.

Katy: hahah that’s true….Wow that was a long day!! And we still had to get dinner!!

Stacy: yeah i’m surprised you didn’t knock out during dinner. It was waaayyy past your bed time!!

Katy: Oh yeah, don’t get me started on that! When we did get back to the hostel, I went to bed immediately, I’m sure you couldn’t see how fast I ran up to my room!

Stacy:  I was way ahead of you girl. I knocked out in negative 0 seconds.

Katy and Stacy: Well, that’s all we have for now. We’re signing out. See you on the outside!

1/19 McAllen: The Reality of Immigration

McAllen has already surprised our team in many ways. First, we were greeted by plam trees and warm weather after a cloudy flight. We settled in to St. Peter’s, our home base for the week. Not only have we experienced hospitality within the school and our community partner, Alyssa; we have experienced the work of an immigrant assistance program. It was incredible to see how many people are served within a small community. I did not fully understand the process of immigration, the difficulties of getting into the country, separation of family members, detention centers, the role of the cartel and coyotes, and sponsors. It was a truly remarkable experience to work directly with families that traversed the Rio Grande. Though they have been through so much to reach this point and thought they have such a challenging journey ahead, they have maintained incredible spirit. Despite all the hardship, these families were able to smile. We played such a small part in there journey but we witnessed the beginning of a fresh start in the US – a shower, soup, clean clothes, toiletries and a backpack, a nap in a cot. We fumbled with our limited spanish language skills to assist families to the best of our ability. All we could say as they left to catch their buses was “buena suerte.” I hope these people and the many families we did not have the pleasure of meeting can find peace and happiness. I am eager to move forward with service – to meet students and faculty of IDEA schools and uncover how the issues of immigration and education coalesce here in McAllen.

Fostering Hope, Positivity and Happiness

Looking back on the past few days I know that my first time in Chicago will be an experience that I will never forget. I had little to no understanding about how the foster care system work and it was though this trip I saw the various facets that involve foster care. One thing remained constant throughout my experience, positivity. Talking directly to mothers that had just given birth, making art with them, and socializing in general I always felt a constant sense of positivity.

Our team was divided into two groups; one was responsible for working the warehouse and thrift store while the other was responsible for playing basketball with the kid. I was fortunate enough to be able to work with the kids and always felt a constant sense of happiness as we were playing with them and giving them the attention and love that they need.

As we did drills and played games, I could see the growing interest of the kids and the positivity throughout the gym. Even if it was a brief moment for them it was great knowing that they had fun and was excited to have us there. I can only imagine what they have gone through and still are going through, but I feel Maryville Academy (our community partner) does an incredible job at fostering hope amongst the kids and generating happiness as well as positivity.

Our trip ends in one day and I am very sad to leave the kids, but I am glad how much more informed about the social issue I became through each day. Hopefully I will keep what I learn in mind and constantly seek to find ways to address the social issue.

-Sicheng Weng


For What It’s Worth

It is astonishing to see the transformation in rapport among we (the college students) and the students of IDEA McAllen. Facial recognition helped put names to students in many of our classes and we were able to engage with the students in more depth. Not surprisingly, it was refreshing to listen to the students more so than our first day on Tuesday, Jan. 20. Many of us asked students questions along the lines of “What is your favorite/least favorite part of the school day?”, “Do you feel as if you have enough support from the teachers and administration?”, and “What has been the most memorable experience you’ve had at IDEA McAllen?”

Inspirational, informative, and brutally honest are words and phrases that best describe the student’s responses towards some of the aforementioned questions. While it is important not overshadow the statistics that speak for themselves such as 100% college matriculation among all students at IDEA over the past seven years and virtually all test scores improving dramatically since the inauguration of IDEA McAllen, it is worth reflecting on the struggles that IDEA McAllen students (and for that matter, students nationwide) suffer from regularly. Issues such as lack of individualized attention and support at home simply due to IDEA families lack of empathy in support of the demanding rigor associated with the IDEA school system because the overwhelming majority of students’ families have never even dreamed of college. For many families, before IDEA, college was an afterthought that they could not even dream of for their children.

As a senior in college who quite frankly has had it incredibly easy throughout my schooling, I greatly value the perspective of students, who at the age of eight and nine in some cases, have experienced more issues than I could ever possibly imagine. For what it’s worth, it is necessary for individuals apart of service opportunities like ASB F.U.T.U.R.E to gain a greater appreciation for the vicissitudes of IDEA students’ lives that many undergo at a young age. For what it’s worth, it is necessary to understand that while we are hoping that IDEA students are able to take away the message that college is not only important but the gateway to a better life, so to is the notion that we college students can learn just as much if not more than the students can learn from us.

Stay hungry, stay humble



Today started with a 7 a.m. ride from Laf to the Philly airport. When we all met at the airport, our craving for a cup of coffee took over and we passed the security right away. After we bonded over coffee and other relevant (and irrelevant) topics, we proceeded with our flight and arrived to Chicago.
From there, we took the train and although Alex (our team leader) had a small heart attack when she realized that she forgot her wallet in the train, we made it to the hostel safely and in one piece. (Don’t worry she was able to get it before the door was closed). The hostel is very pretty and clean which was not anticipated by anyone of us -lucky us! Anyways, we, then, divided into 2 groups and found our rooms to settle in. As everyone was moderately tired at that point, we have decided to stay in the hostel to watch a movie about foster care. The movie initiated a comprehensive discussion about the foster care system and the effect of abuse, domestic violence etc. on the children. It also left us with many question which was also furthered when we couldn’t decide on what to eat. Finally, we all agreed on the safe choice -ordering Chinese- and that we wanted to deepen those questions during reflection.
In a nutshell, today was a great start for the Foster Hope and “bonding” could not have been any better. For me, it was promising to see that we tried and found a way to make each one of us pleased. The kids or teenagers that we will work with throughout the week have already been through approxiametly 10 losses. I believe that our best shot for this trip to be meaningful and beneficial is through our positive energy and unity. And, I am thrilled to announce that we have it…

In the Classrooms!

Today was Team FUTURE’s first day in the classrooms at IDEA McAllen and before even arriving at the school we were off to an interesting start. What was supposed to be a quick 10 minute drive to the 6th-9th grade school ended up taking almost an hour and included a few stops at incorrect locations on the way. Needless to say, when we finally arrived at the school we were excited to get out of the car and jump into the classrooms with the students.

In the morning I got to check out a pretty awesome self-guided learning system that IDEA students use to improve both their math and reading skills. What really surprised me about the students as they used this online learning aid, was the focused and goal-oriented attitude each student had in approaching his or her own work. One student that specifically caught my eye was doing problems that seemed particularly challenging and when she was given the option to play online games towards the end of the period, she  instead decided to persevere and continued to solve her problems. Students such as this seem to be commonplace in the IDEA classrooms and the morning classes were merely the first place I experienced this steadfast and determined approach to education.

In the afternoon, several other team members and I worked with McAllen’s AVID tutoring program. This program is entirely geared toward teaching students about college and how they can be successful in rigorous academic environments. IDEA students were given a list of questions pertaining to college life and subsequently conducted mock interviews with Lafayette ASB team members. One of the questions I personally enjoyed answering was giving advice to high school students. This question made me nostalgic for my high school experience and also served as a meaningful moment of self-reflection. I similarly enjoyed talking with students about my extracurricular activities, because they are definitely a big part of who I am and how I have experienced college thus far. I was definitely amazed at the excitement radiating from the students as they asked my teammates and I questions. It is times like those that make me glad to be able to participate in ASB, where I get to support younger hopeful students in making life-changing decisions for themselves.

Looking forward to tomorrow,