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 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,
Today is our second day of service at Maryville. We painted one of the lunch room in Madden, a home for teenage moms. To be honest, I was worried that I could not be able to make an impact. However, after seeing the room painted and some tangible results, I finally feel relief. Also, it was really nice to interact with some of the girls. Personally, I am shaken by the fact that one of the moms is only 15 years old, which meant she got pregnant around the age of most high school first year girls. My sister is a sophomore right now and I can’t imagine her having a baby right now, raising the kid on her own.Another thing we got to do was, we had a chance to meet with the person in charge of fundraising after lunch . It was also good to learn about the obstacles they have to go through to fund all the services. Some one from the group came up with the question of why do the mothers get funding from the government and why not the boys. It is an interesting question, that we look forward to find out by the end of the trip.
To start off, Monday was great; and I believe everyone felt the same way. During Sunday night’s reflection we all indentified the various nerves we felt going into the week including the possibility that we won’t learn as much as we wanted from the program. However this and the rest of the fears were almost instantly alleviated because most of the staff and students at the various campuses seemed eager and excited to have us around. The team was also able to learn a whole lot – what one of the staff described as “a whole semester’s worth of knowledge in a day”.
Of the three campuses we visited, one was a shelter for pregnant/parenting teens, one a boys campus and the other for “differently-abled” girls. At each of the campuses we participated in their mission day which was strategically placed on Martin Luther King day. A few of the take-always included a rendition of the song, “We Shall Overcome”, which Dr Martin and his followers sang as they marched during the civil rights movement and a touching performance by the girls at the Eisenberg home. In all it was a great day and the main lesson learnt was to “love” and accommodate everyone despite their views, beliefs, etc.
Today team Foster Hope worked at the Madden Campus of Maryville Academy. This specific campus is for teenage girls and young women who are pregnant or parenting. In the morning, half of our team (myself included) painted one of the lunch rooms. Before we painted, the walls were marked up and chipped; the room really needed a fresh coat of paint. Every time a staff member walked by, they always seemed genuinely excited that someone was finally reprinting the walls. It was nice to see tangible evidence of the impact we were making at Maryville and to know that this work would last for a long time. In the afternoon, I did some research for one of the Maryville staff members. Every day, the girls at the shelter have a lesson on some sort of skill; sometimes these lessons are parenting related, other times they’re related to self-care. During my research, I was looking for articles and information that could be used for these kinds of lessons. The woman, Mary, who usually does this has a lot of other responsibilities at the shelter and it was nice to know that I was alleviating some of her work load so that she could focus more energy on completing the many other important tasks she does. It’s also really nice to know that they have classes like these. It’s obvious that the Maryville staff cares about their girls; they want to make sure they are well prepared when they have to leave the shelter.
Although I really felt like the work I did made a huge impact at Maryville, I do wish I had gotten to interact with the girls and their babies some more. Hearing from my team members who got to do art projects with the girls in the morning and play games with them in the afternoon was wonderful. I loved hearing the enthusiasm my team members had for what they did during the day and it sounded like everyone, including the girls and the Maryville staff, was having a great day. I was speaking with one staff member at the end of the day and she seemed so impressed that the girls had opened up to us so much. One of them mentioned that this was the most they had heard the girls laugh in a long time. Even though I wasn’t directly a part of this, hearing that made me feel so fulfilled. I was nervous at first that we wouldn’t really be making an impact at Maryville, but after today, I realize that we already have.
Mara Natale, Team ‘POW! Senior reporting for reflection. As a senior it’s bittersweet that this week is my first and last ASB experience, but I’m happy to be squeezing a fresh experience out of my Lafayette experience.
Team ‘Pow got off to our usual start of cereal and banter before braving the NYC subway to start our service. My trio set out to deliver 21 meals today and the other pairs had roughly the same. Today we reclaimed the “W” in ‘POW! with the welcome addition of wheeling carts to aid in our treks. It was bitter cold and windy, but it reminded all of us to be thankful for the opportunities we had and our warm clothes. When we reflected as a group we all shared special moments we shared with the senior citizens we delivered meals to both today and on Sunday. Katy and I helped a very sweet woman with the simple task of opening a clogged tube of toothpaste. As I struggled we shared a pleasant conversation. This little chance I had to do something extra reminded me of the importance of human connection, a theme our team has been focusing on.
After lunch we bid a sentimental farewell to Prof. Root who helped guide our discussions, provide insight, and some NYC know-how. This evening Prof. Parrish came to replace him and we’ve already begun preparing for another exciting day of service by planning our meals, reviewing research we did at the NYC public library, and unwinding with the documentary Iris. I think all that’s left to say on behalf of team Pards on Wheels is… let the good times ROLL!
Monday was our first day of service!! We visited 3 group homes for parenting teen moms, girls (ages 14-21), and boys (ages 14-18), respectively. At each group home, the team attended a MLK day celebration complete with song and reflection. The team was also able to speak to the caregivers at each group home, and learn about how they got involved with the organization. Although they admitted that their work was challenging, they all said that they loved working with the kids. For example, the team spoke with a golf instructor that used golf to help the kids feel comfortable to transition into the group home.
Today we got to sleep in! As it was MLK Jr. Day, we were unable to participate in our Meals on Wheels service so found a plethora of other ways to fill the day with activities instead. First and foremost, we made a much-needed trip to Western Beef supermarket, where we were greeted with spacious aisles and reasonable produce.
Following the supermarket and some fantastic grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, we watched a great documentary by Morgan Spurlock about his grandmother and her end-of-life state of affairs. However, while this documentary was certainly touching and relatable to many who saw it, the best part was the discussion that followed. As a group we spent 79 minutes (yes we timed it) talking about aging, healthcare, and math! The discussion did a great job tying together some loose ends from the documentary and unearthing some big-picture questions many on our team have pondered.
After a short break and delicious taco dinner, we fought the cold NYC winds to see Daisy Nguyen, a recent Lafayette grad, for some coffee and dessert. This was a great time for all, other than Taha who will be having lucid dreams for the rest of the week about his unfinished slice of marble cake.
Looking forward to a fruitful day of service tomorrow and exploring Times Square afterwards.
Monday morning began pretty well as most of us woke up around 9, opposed to around 7 the day before. Because it is a holiday (MLK day, Holla!), our group did not have many interesting plans today. In the morning, we slowly ate our food and briefly discussed about lucid dreaming before heading out to do our grocery shopping. When we got to Western Beef (because apparently that’s an acceptable grocery store name), we split up into groups and bought all the food we needed for the next two days. Then we proceeded to walk home, lugging groceries in our bare hands while having to deal with 20 degree weather and a 20 mph wind.
After creating a simple yet delicious meal of grilled cheese and tomato soup, the group discussed the subtle racism presently occurring across America. While most violent and obvious racism (like slavery, segregation) has dissipated, subtle racism is still occurring in the United States. Common examples include minorities being stopped by police at a much higher rate than whites. Shortly after, we began to watch Morgan Spurlock’s Elderly Care documentary. The short movie demonstrates the importance of taking care of the elderly, especially through interaction with family and friends. When the movie ended, we had a brief discussion that turned into an in-depth and deep conversation about politics, namely issues with the division of money due to capitalism.
For dinner, we had tacos, muy delicioso. Then, we accompanied Professor Root to meet one of his former students at a nearby diner, which turned out to be a very intriguing experience. Dessert was amazing, see picture of Mara below. During the next few days, I hope that we, as a team through the topics discussed today, will develop a better sense at what helping the elderly really means.
After a long day of travels on Saturday, Team POW! got a well deserved night sleep (after finally adjusting to the screeching sounds of various trains pulling into the station across from our hostel). Due to the previous day’s travel fiascos, we left plenty of time to reach our volunteer destination, St. Paul and Andrew Methodist Church, this morning. Volunteering for the WEME Nutrition Program, we assisted with meal delivery to elderly residents residing throughout the community. Splitting into pairs of two, we walked from the church to our assigned homes. One by one, as each group returned from their numerous deliveries, we began to share our experiences with the elderly we interacted with. One group spent over twenty minutes conversing with an elderly woman, who went as far as to invite them in for coffee. Many other groups had brief conversations mainly regarding the weather. Although it seemed like a seemingly simple task, we came to realize that our meal delivery may have been the only interaction these elderly people would see all day.
Finishing our service around 12:30 P.M., we all ate a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich before we headed off to the Museum of Natural History. Many of us had been to the museum before (most when we were children), while for others this was their first time. We wandered throughout the various exhibits and stared with awe at the gigantic dinosaur replicas.
For dinner, we were graciously invited by Louise Frazier, who works in Lafayette’s Admission office, to have a meal in her parents NYC apartment. Her mom, Rafaela Garcia, went above and beyond to make our team feel right at home. The home cooked meal, prepare by both Mr.& Mrs. Garcia was absolutely spectacular. They shared many family anecdotes and reminded us how important the concept of family truly is. The conversation led to Lousie recalling her experiences growing up in NYC and witnessing visible economic disparity merely separated by one street, which although isn’t our focused social issue, was just as equally thought provoking.
As day two comes to a close, I can say Team POW! is extremely full and equally exhausted, but nonetheless even more motivated for our volunteering endeavors throughout the rest of the week.