I didn’t know what to expect when I decided to travel to New York for my final spring break as an undergraduate student. Our Alternative Break experience not only gave me a better understanding of the fantastic volunteer work that happens in New York City, but also how I can help change the world.
One of my favorite opportunities was volunteering the Wednesday and Friday of our trip with Reading Partners. It is a nonprofit that provided one-to-one literacy tutoring to elementary students who are at least one month behind in reading. Each child that I tutored was smiling and laughing by the end of the session. I was so impressed by the kids’ drive and determination. One student who I had tutored on Wednesday came up to me out of nowhere on Friday and gave me a big bear hug, which was so special.
This trip taught me to be increasingly aware of how I might be perceived as a volunteer in the community. One day, another student and I went to a subway station in Crown Heights to hand out SNAP flyers. I was worried about the image of two white college students handing out flyers in a predominantly black neighborhood. From day one of the trip, we had learned how to interact with the community with respect. We had also learned about productive discomfort. In terms of SNAP, the knowledge that one flyer could spur a family to be fed for a year helped me work through my productive discomfort as I thought about the long-term benefits of what we were doing.
I’m going to take so much from my time in New York on Alternative Break. I will always remember the kids and the people that work at the many wonderful organizations we met while volunteering . As I move towards college graduation and hopefully graduate school, I will always cherish my spring break in New York. Thanks to SF Hillel and Repair the World for making it happen!