2017 Week Two: Education
When I found out that I would be working with an organization that supports people in acquiring their GEDs, I had no idea how many young children would be present at work everyday. I was shown otherwise upon starting, learning that many people enrolled in YO have children of their own that come with them when they come each day to practice for their tests. I’ve spent days alternating between teaching long division and coloring pictures of different animals.
One day in particular stands out to me as having lots of children present—the director of my organization brought in her newborn for the office to see, and a woman that I had been working on math with for a large portion of the day had brought in her young son who spent the time that his mother and I were going over polynomial factorization trying to show me how cool his fidget spinner was. Later that day, in a focus group, one young man enrolled in YO nostalgically spoke of his daughter and how the first time he held her after she was born, he looked at her and thought “I really need to step it up”. The sincerity in his voice was amazing.
Being around so many kids brings me back to when my little brother was born– having two older siblings at the time gave five-year-old me a sense of entitlement to my little brother, as my older brother and sister had both already experienced what it was like to show someone the ropes of life. In my head, it was my responsibility to look out for him and help raise him with all the knowledge that I had accrued in my short time on earth up to that point.
It’s crazy the effect that a child can have on someone, whether a first-time older sibling or a new parent, there is not much that’s more life-changing than a new life altogether.
Even in the span of two weeks, I’m beginning to feel far more familiar with Liberty. I know my way around the school, where things go, and have started building relationships with faculty outside of Mr. Manko, who I primarily spend my time with. It’s a reaffirming feeling, when you walk into a building and can say hi to several people and ask about their weekend, instead of walking shyly past.
Not only that, but I feel more confident even accomplishing the projects I’ve been assigned. Given how understaffed Liberty is, particularly during the summer, it was overwhelming to think these people had so much faith in me to competently complete tasks like payroll for all the teachers and managing our 10 YouthWorkers. Quickly I understood the Herculean power Mr. Manko, and other nonprofit leaders, has in order to keep track of 15 different projects. Miraculously, he doesn’t write anything down, but seemingly has a to do constantly running in his head, while I have 10 Sticky Notes plastered around and hastily written bullets on a scrap piece of paper in order to make sure everything I want gets done.
I worried about being able to step up to the task, but the trust, confidence, and high expectations the faculty of this school has set for me has pushed me to work harder than I have at any job. And I’m determined to not only meet those expectations, but far surpass them.
When I first got assigned to Code in the School, I imagined that I would have moments similar to the ones pictured in college brochures. I initially thought that I would be actively engaging with students at all moments of the day or peacefully eating a salad for lunch. In fact, I think the idea of working at non-profits is significantly glamorized by most people. However, my first two weeks consisted of looking at un-alphabetized excel spreadsheets, trying to eat bagels in 5 minutes, and spending a lot of time in Charlotte’s car trying to get to meetings that were scheduled way too close to one another. My experiences so far have differed from what I envisioned, but I have enjoyed almost every moment I have spent with Code in the Schools.
The entirety of my Week 2 can be summarized by one excel spread sheet that has been appropriately named the ***Masterlist***. This list consists of the name of all 65 students, their birthday, email, registration status, and classes. The content of the list seems fairly simple, but this list was probably the information that was combined and cross-checked with 10 other spreadsheets, emails, and YouthWorks packets. Not to be completely overdramatic, but this excel sheet was the bane of my existence during multiple points of the week. Everything seemed to depend on it, yet it was changing every single day. However, this changed my perspective on the work that was being done by my program and YouthWorks. Although this may sound obvious, I never fully imagined the time and energy it would take to organize and facilitate a program. And it further encourages and motivates me to work harder, knowing the number of people that I know are placing their full effort and energy into their causes.
As we started to understand what we would actually be doing this summer, we realized that there would be a lot of planning involved. Monday, we spent the entire day preparing and planning for the week ahead and managing all of our YouthWorks and DAASI placements. We planned for the rest of the summer – which sites we would visit during which weeks, and during which weeks we needed to take care of what tasks. Then, Tuesday came along. On Tuesday, YouthWorks emailed me with 30 new placements for our students. At first I sank in my chair. I was already in the middle of a lot of paperwork, making work permits for our students, when we received all of the new placements.
The most important thing I’ve learned at Thread so far is to never ever ever lose sight of the big picture. Why am I here? What is Angad Uppal’s purpose at Thread? As long as I can help one student this summer realize what a job is like and why a job is important and should be valued, my summer will be a success.
On Wednesday Tena and I went to training for all of the employers hosted by YouthWorks at REACH school. Although this was mostly details and information I had read before, there was one workshop in particular that I am glad I went to. The workshop was about trauma and how employers need to be mindful of the different challenges that students are facing. The workshop transcended the program because the presenter was able to use examples from his own life and really made us think about the way we treat one another as human beings on this earth.
Another amazing experience I had this week was on Thursday. I had to go to Occupational Health at Johns Hopkins Hospital in order to make sure that all of the students who were working at the Johns Hopkins Medical Campus received all of their TB tests. I was sitting in the waiting room waiting for our students to arrive. When one would enter, I saw their eyes struck with fear because they had entered an environment that they were not comfortable in. As soon as they saw my Thread shirt, they would breathe a sigh of relief. As someone who is still new to Thread as an organization, this was really impactful for me. It just showed me how big of a difference a non-profit could make in the lives of kids throughout Baltimore City.
The rest of the week was spent contacting those 30 new employers and finding out where exactly their organizations were and a contact person for the placement. We then emailed all 180 Thread students their placements for the summer. We are looking forward to YouthWorks starting up on Monday! Wish us luck!Tags: 2017, CIIP, CIIP 2017, Code in the Schools, Hebac Yo! Baltimore, Liberty Elementary and Rec, THREAD, Week Two