wr121 writing for civic engagement . spring 2010
sky wicked huge. is
sky wicked huge. is
WR121 WRITING FOR CIVIC ENGAGEMENT
ADVISOR PHOTOS & IMAGES DESIGN SPECIAL THANKS
AndrĂŠs Acosta Sophie Bell Jared Brown Jackie Cangro Justin Chun Jordan Drutman Jessica Hiestand Jayson James Kirsten Judson Carson Lund Ashley Maietta Brendan Mattox Liz McGreavy Gabrielle Nunez Chris Peck Cheryl Rafuse Maggie Sinkiewicz Chelsea Williams Beth Parfitt Front cover: Sophie Bell Back cover: Jordan Drutman all others as credited Jeannie Harrell Boston Cares: Patrice Keegan, Executive Director Paul Lewis, Youth & College Coordinator Emerson College: Office of Service Learning & Community Action Suzanne Hinton, Associate Director of Service Learning Tamera Marko, Acting Director, First-Year Writing Program John Trimbur, Acting Chair, Writing, Literature & Publishing Dept.
inside PHOTO CHALLENGE
Jackie Cangro & Jordan Drutman
"The Sky is Fucking Huge" Brendan Mattox "Flush: a memoir" Liz McGreavy "El Paraíso Perdió" Jared Brown "The Communitarian Spirit of the Archive" Carson Lund "Twelve" Kirsten Judson BostonCares Volunteer testimonials
7 8 11
12 14 17
"Civic Engagement" Cheryl Rafuse 19 "Volunteer Reflection: Drumlin Farm" Sophie Bell 20 "Learning on the Ice" Jackie Cangro 22 "Chinatown: a Constant" Justin Chun 23
REFLECT "Everyone Roots for the Underdog" Chris Peck "A Seedy Little Place Called Home" Jayson James "Jump Start" Maggie Sinkiewicz "Bringing Balance" Ashley Maietta
IMAGINE "A Step Back" Jessica Hiestand "Tupelo" Chelsea Williams "Alec" Jordan Drutman "The Gift of Civic Engagement" Andrés Acosta "Cleaning the Esplanade" Gabrielle Nunez
24 25 26 28 29
32 33 34 36 37 38
So since today was such a beautiful day I decided to take a walk around Boston and people watch. Who doesn’t love to people watch every once in a while, right? For one leg of my walk I was behind two men and an adorable little girl. She must have been about five years old. The girl was visibly enjoying the day and the company of the two men she was with. At one point the little girl, who had been jumping around throughout the entire walk, stopped to smile at a homeless man who was on the side of the street. The smile of
the sky is wicked huge.
this little girl made the homeless man, who was sitting on the ground and begging for change, actually smile back. You could see that this man’s day became a little bit better because of the little girl. At this moment, I got out my camera in order to document the moment. To me, this is exactly what civic engagement should be. To be civically engaged means that someone is doing whatever they can to make the life of another person’s that much better. For the little girl, all she had was a smile and sweet presence. By smiling at
the homeless man she was almost comforting the man by letting him know that everything will be okay. Sometimes the small act of a smile can really help someone out. It’s in that moment that they know someone acknowledges their existence and cares about them. Keep smiling. text & photo · Jackie Cangro
the sky is wicked huge.
I regularly pass by the statues outlining the Boston Common. Three figures represent labor, religion and education. I'm not a religious person, but the composition of this brass man reminds me to have faith. His hope inspires civic engagement, and the position of the flag in the background is aligned with his vision. It helps to give context to the figure's hope. As a manifestation of patriotism, we must remain civically engaged in order to preserve our individual communities, and more importantly, our nation.
text & photo 路 Jordan Drutman
explore In taking steps un-trodden, we discover something new. We may not be scavenging a foreign planet for signs of life, and we may not encounter a new species of fish at unfamiliar depths, but we do step forward. Our experiences, no matter how unglamorous, mundane, or monotonous, transform our identity in new revelations about who we are. But why should it interest me? The closest I’ve come to exploration is the backyard. To explore is not just to walk around and see places you haven’t seen before. Sight is only the very beginning of the process of exploration, wherein sight as well as touch, smell, sound, and taste fuse inside the brain to create a unique experience. When you were little, absorbing these perceptions was easy, the experiences automatic. Your brain was a sponge eager to learn, responsive to new findings. As an adult your knowledge preceptors are dulled and information becomes a struggle to absorb. But, every so often, when we use our sensory devices like when we were children, we take in much more than we ever have before. Exploration involves going to a new place, material or otherwise, and existing there, if only for a few minutes. You’ll come away having not necessarily learned something, but having felt something. In here you will find a report from each of us about our first year at Emerson. Our Exploration. Dr. Seuss’s Oh The Places You’ll Go ain’t got nuffin’ on us. Liz looks at bathrooms, Carson explores a film archive, Brendan stares at the sky. All this and more.
the sky is wicked huge.
I just wanted to write you and tell you that the sky is fucking huge. You probably wouldn’t want to hear your son say that for 40,000 dollars a year, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. It doesn’t mean anything, really, it’s just a thing that I like to say because it confuses people. I like confusing people. At the same time though, it’s true. The first time I said it, I was on the swings with Kathy in a park way the hell up in Downingtown. It was three days before I was to leave for a new life in Boston. I lay on my back, and stared at the sky, and mumbled the words for the first time. I said it again that Friday while I waited for Alec in the Boston Commons. I was flat on my back looking at the sky. Nervous as hell because I just might like this girl. That thought grounded me. “The sky is fucking huge” – because it is. When you
look at it, it stretches everywhere in space, it takes up every available spot. I never realized that at home. Home: Lansdowne, Pennsylvania. The place where I was nothing. I wasn’t nothing – I was something, but nothing that I wanted to be. Friends from small towns tell me that you can never escape a reputation there. They don’t realize that it’s not much better in the big towns. You can’t disappear any better than you can in a small town. My reputation was one of the ones you don’t want to have. I was a loser, but I didn’t know just how badly no one wanted to be near me. There was a point – a year ago, though it seems longer – where I had no friends. I needed Boston. And here I am today. The sky stretches on forever, unfazed by the actions that I’ve committed. It has no capacity for judgment, it doesn’t care who I used to be, just like everyone here. No one cared who I was, because they weren’t popular in high school either. Everyone here understood that no one understood us.
In a way, it made me come to terms with what happened last year. I realized gradually that I’ve had it pretty easy. I learned that all it really takes to be happy is to step out of yourself and your mind sometimes. I learned none of it mattered. The sky makes me feel small sometimes, but I keep looking at it anyway. It reminds me of that triumphant moment when you left me at the Commons on September 4th, 2009 and told me to go have fun. The day where Alec walked over to where I was sitting on the grass and smiled that smile I know so well now. It reminds of the night I stayed up till six, walking around the North End and jumping on park benches. It reminds me of waiting outside concerts with Jordan this spring. It reminds me of the cold afternoon in December where Jing pushed me through the end of my self-discovery phase and towards that driven feeling that resides in my gut. It all comes back to the sky, that night over Downingtown, all pink and pale blue fading into starry black and purple. I turn to Kathy and say: “The sky is fucking huge…” text & photos · Brendan Mattox
the sky is wicked huge.
flush a memoir As I retreat to a busy public restroom in the Boston Common’s Visitor Center, the first thing that hits me is the smell. The smell can evoke many degrees of disgust, except it will never be the smell of cleanliness. The single light is an artificial fluorescent bulb. It flickers slightly and projects a dull buzzing sound. A row of sinks encased by a wet, soapy counter stands in front of a lengthy mirror. The pink soap collects under its dispenser onto the surface. The tiled walls and the slippery floor are in an unimpressive condition of color, and the patrons have stains or scratches on the outside. I choose a stall. The first door I push open alarms me with the remains of a stranger’s deposit, and I flee in disgust. The next stall I chose has toilet paper stuck to the floor, and puddles around the toilet bowl. The toilet paper is well stocked in an industrial dispenser with giant rolls—this will have to do. The inside patrons have been vandalized by anonymous secrets and insults. Some have been painted over, but others have been left alone. This revealing trail reminds me that I am in a communal restroom, entrapped by the overwhelming influence of publicity.
We’ve all done it. We’ve planned, prepped, and schemed until we’ve designed the most ridiculously complex methodology for using the public restroom. We’ve researched statistics and probabilities and learned which stall is most likely to be the cleanest (the farthest one, of course), and we’ve practiced the most sanitary way to handle the filthy toilet seats. We’ve seriously deliberated pros and cons lists for either using the public restroom, or seeking out an abandoned tree. Everyone has already developed guerilla warfare for this necessary evil— that is, everyone except for me. For some reason or another, I haven’t spent as much time in public restrooms as others. Perhaps this is because of growing up in the suburbs, where public restrooms weren’t readily available. Or maybe it is because I’ve been lucky enough to avoid public restroom situations. This absence of exposure to the deeply solidified codes and conduct of public restrooms had left me playing the role of a tourist one afternoon after feeling the urge to go while on a walk on the Boston Commons near campus. Once I opened that heavy crooked door to the women’s public restroom, I became
keenly aware that I had entered a place drastically different from the one I had just left. The cause of this change in cultural impression from the outside to the inside is a social phenomenon where intensely private institutions are made awfully public. While using the public restroom that day, I offered myself up to this subjection with the abandonment of my own personal defenses. Upon entering this public space, I instantaneously made an averse sacrifice of vulnerability. This seemingly insignificant restroom by the Commons challenged my individual power. My survival through this ordeal was determined by my deception to hide personal weakness and devastating insecurities that threatened my illusory superior power in society. From my anthropological research that day, I discovered that public restrooms initiate tactics of deception and trickery in reaction to threats by public scrutiny. One woman in her 40s entered the restroom with a frightened look on her face. She walked with purpose and a keen sense of discomfort. This was precisely why she was using the restroom. The woman’s expression fell from her face as
the sky is wicked huge. she realized that the restroom was crowded with other people. She suddenly collected herself and with a silky clearing of her throat, and became upright and neutral. Her finely manicured nails brushed through her frizzy untamable hair as flashes of fire-engine red distracted my eye. She took her place in line and floated through with strange grace. The younger business woman in front of her stood impatiently, tapping her winter stiletto boots and popping the bubbles in her Bazooka Bubble Gum. She discretely adjusted her shirt collar to ensure protection from unacceptable perceptions. My observations of the behavior of these two women, and their striking similarities to the other women in line demonstrated the effect of societal influence inciting selfawareness, which is often a large contributor to the heightening of insecurity in public restrooms. Soci-
explore ety’s unwelcomed presence in restrooms greatly affects the actions of patrons who become incredibly influenced by other’s behavior, therefore greatly differentiating the use of public restrooms from private ones. I searched for a poster or sign of some kind listing the rules of the bathroom, but to no avail. What were these unnamed rules that everyone had been following? I watched each woman use the same amount of liquid soap, and run the water for the same amount of time. What had caused all of us to become restroom robots? As I became increasingly nervous for my turn to use the restroom, I began to find my answer. More than ever, I was aware of society’s presence, and this quickly influenced me to assimilate to restroom culture. I had not yet realized the purpose of my anxiety for the restroom that
day. I felt afraid to lose something, but that something was still hidden in my subconscious. I continued to watch for answers. Then, I began to notice the women’s avoidance of the mirror. When faced with their own reflection, these women became highly aware of their vulnerability in admitting to a flaw or imperfection—which they might have considered a personal weakness. These observations of our interaction and experience in public restrooms illuminate the significance of public influence and revealed its threat to our individual power. This is what everyone was afraid of! The presence of public influence’s threat to power can also instigate alternative behavior. This restroom on the Boston Commons was sometimes utilized as a woman’s opportunity to flaunt her superior power over others who feel vulnerable in their insecurities. I watched
explore a woman in her teens approach the mirror. The curls in her long blonde hair were flawless and her attire was up to par with the latest fashion trends on the Paris runways. Once it was her turn to wash her hands, he spent some extra time checking out her good hair day in the mirror. From her satisfied expression as she strutted out of the restroom, this self-review in times of perfection made her feel good; it made her feel powerful. While many women that day were still uncomfortable in the anxiety of receiving judgment from others, some acquired the confidence to flaunt their esteem and demonstrate control or manipulation over publicity’s influence. An additional endeavor to prevent the recognition of the public’s presence in this intensely private affair was also observed that morning while I waited my turn in line. Participation in an observed public restroom culture adhering to an unofficial yet highly specific code of etiquette when using the restroom included taking measures to reestablish a sense of privacy in these areas. One strategy is to avoid making eye contact. This protects user anonymity. The other women kept their glances forward and direct, avoiding any interaction between the public. One participating jog-
the sky is wicked huge. ger in her mid-thirties executed another tactic attempting to privatize this space: distancing herself as far as possible from other patrons and therefore decreasing the proximity of insecurities between stalls. A third strategy initiated by most of these women was to clean-up after use. These attempts towards deception strive to eliminate the next user’s realization of the space being shared from entering their consciousness. My anthropological work discovered that loyalty to practicing this code is sometimes effective in imagining public restrooms to be more private and eliminating outside influence, while also encouraging confidence in the restroom. Public pressure encourages us to needlessly flush toilets to disguise unflattering sounds, or to discretely check our appearance in the reflections of objects other than the restroom’s mirror to avoid the public admittance of an imperfection—a clever trick executed by a tourist in her 50s who avoided her reflection at all costs, busying herself with soap suds and paper towels. This trickery includes self-deception with the illusion of power which we seek in a pseudo-confidence. Through these methods, we strive to skirt public judgment of our performance
in the restrooms in aims to protect ourselves from outside scrutiny. I became accustomed to this restroom culture and when it was my turn, I naturally followed the same etiquette I had been researching. I felt so silly being controlled by the women around me; I was in the power of strangers who I would most likely never meet again. I accept this as a fact of life, for now. In the privilege of their amenities, public restrooms demand a sacrifice of vulnerability. Using the restroom requires a performance entailing discrete strategies of deception and obstinacy on behalf of the individual’s persistence to be powerful. The artificial exploitation of restrooms and the complications which arrive with its extended misusage provides commentary into how our society values this performance of trickery and tenacity in utterance of human perfection and intolerance to personal weakness and insecurity. How damaging are the consequences of our society’s insistence on flawlessness? Should social reforms be made to forgive flaws in public restrooms? Until our culture’s unremitting value on perfection is revised, we will forever be the victims of public influence. text · Liz McGreavy image · nysuperblog.com
EL PARAÍSO PERDIÓ
the sky is wicked huge.
Here, It’s as if time has come to a Sudden halt. For the moment I am overwhelmed. I can’t breathe My Stomach aches My toes Quench with Fatigue and everything Is spinning around me I bumble forward like a baby taking their first steps. A sudden giggle escapes from my chest Followed by another. And then a childlike grin sneaks onto my face, which urgently evolves into this gorgeous smile. I quickly grasp the frozen railing and lean forward as I take a deep breath. I feel like a new person. I jump off the railing, Race down the steps And Kick threw the snow like a little kid experiencing it for the first time There’s a song playing in the background. one of a childhood. A lonely childhood. Not a realistic childhood, But one like you see in movies. It’s like for the moment, I am in a movie taking in new sights and there’s this song playing faintly in the background And as I build up speed and momentum The music grows louder and faster Here I can allow my Imagination and emotions run free Like a child. For the moment I can be whatever I can think of..... A dancer A firefighter A super hero A romantic stud A football player. I have achieved it. This high state where I’m in Paradise. My Paradise lost.
Tonight I did something interesting. After searching for inspiration with a few friends. I turned on my Ipod, put on my headphones and looked out over the pond. Maybe it was the combination of the music, this sense of enlightenment, and the fact that I still had to go back to my room and write this paper, but I began to think about a quote by Robert Wilson. “Genius, is childhood recovered at a later age”. And then I began to think about how that might relate to the topic of identity in relation to children. From their intense curios-
ity and need to explore everything, to their limitless imagination. Why is it so important to be proper all the time. Why is it so wrong for us to do like a child and splash around in the rain. Turn “Ordinary objects into EXTRAORDINARY OBJECTS”. Life is full of people who want to hate you because they don’t understand you. People who hate you because you are different. So they tease you and make you feel like you don’t fit in. So overtime, the world shapes you into this stagnant emotionless rock who looks at the world Solemn eyes
longing for paradise. But no such place exists. So keep dreaming. Keep doing whatever you have to do to get by and enjoy every minute of it, because Paradise only exists in death. text · Jared Brown image · Gustave Doré, 1866
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The Communitarian Spirit of the Archive In September of 2009, I came to my first year of college without the faintest expectation that I would be involved in exchanges with some of my favorite filmmakers. Fortunately, the Harvard Film Archive allowed this possibility. I always figured Boston was too conventional a city to cater to my most obscure tastes. I figured I needed to get out of America for that. But of course, I was wrong and The Archive was a place that perfectly fit the radical cinematic exploration I like to partake in. Iâ€™ve always only known about this cinema by name, and have vaguely
regarded it as a place that is consumed by the mystique of Harvard University, something impenetrable and highbrow. I guess I imagined it screened only the dustiest of old classics, films by Hitchcock and Chaplin for example, and was curated by people who feared trailblazing contemporary cinema and stood stubbornly beside academic work from the past. I probably never thought too hard about it, but these were the general assumptions that were likely floating around in the back of my head. One night, when I was with my friend Mike, I decided to peruse the
Film Archiveâ€™s website, having already been to other local cinemas like the Brattle Theatre, the Kendall Square Cinema, and the Coolidge Corner Theatre, venues which I met with a lukewarm reaction. None of them managed to convince me that I could find a community to immerse myself in, somewhere where audience members would be as passionate and exploratory as I am. So on my last string of hope, we scrolled through the homepage, read some of its content, and then scanned the top menu bar. Obviously, the schedule was of most interest to us, so we looked through it and suddenly had
the sky is wicked huge. an epiphany. That very month, two filmmakers that I very much admire – Lisandro Alonso and Tsai Ming-Liang - were going to be at the theater screening their new films and fielding audience questions. It sounds absurd, but seeing these films listed felt surreal. These were the kinds of films that I’ve only read about playing in festivals my whole life, works that I could only salvage, with some difficulty, on DVD. The first film I went to see was Liverpool, the latest work by Argentinean director Lisandro Alonso. Withholding excitement that had been accumulating for a few weeks, Mike and I got off the subway at Harvard Square and proceeded to follow the directions that I recalled imprecisely in memory. We soon found ourselves in the heart of Harvard University on a street that felt quaint with its dim lighting and oldfashioned brick buildings. Foolishly using the street numbers as my only guide, we quickly found ourselves lost, or so we thought. I walked up to the nearest passersby. “Hi, do you have any idea where the Harvard Film Archive is?” I asked, trying to obscure any blatant sense of tourist ignorance. “Of course, you’re standing right next to it,” he responded, as if immediately detecting that which I tried to obscure. Then he pointed to the nondescript spaceship that I had already seen several times sandwiched in between the more archaic buildings on the street. Something about its sleek modernism and uniqueness had already indicated to me that this was the place, but having witnessed the ambiguous lack of a sign I had not explored it. This was a building that really announced itself with its stylish architecture and minimalist visual design, a place whose exterior bareness seemed to suggest something paradoxically mysterious and wholesome inside.
explore Of course, after entering, we found this to be the case. You are first greeted by a large, arbitrarily placed assortment of televisions standing on pedestals that feature talking heads. This is a somewhat disarming first impression if only for its absolute dissonance from any other movie theater I’ve been to in my life. It felt more like the kind of art installation that would have been programmed for Andy Warhol’s famous “Screen Tests”. We didn’t stay there for long, scurrying down the stairs to the theater quickly, where we heard a large group of people gathering. Next to the doors of the theater, standing unobtrusively, we spotted Lisandro Alonso, whose physical appearance was most likely unfamiliar to the majority of the filmgoers. He was dressed more casually than any of the programmers at the Archive, and he periodically pushed back his long, wavy hair to reveal a quiet, boyish face. It was a genuinely surprising moment, the feeling of standing next to someone you’ve only regarded on a mythic level, an “artist” for lack of a better word. It was not like a celebrity sighting, because as in any serious artistic community, seeing filmmakers in person is an act that affords significantly less childlike reverence than seeing Miley Cyrus. I maintained a mild degree of highbrow aloofness, as if it didn’t matter that I was in the presence of greatness, and continued on into the theater after buying a ticket to the screening. The film, essentially a plotless study of a man in search of his estranged family told in elegant long takes, was transfixing. I’ve seen Alonso’s works before, but Liverpool was undoubtedly his finest effort. Afterwards, I took the opportunity to ask him a question when the floor opened up to it. I resorted to a question of practicality.
“When shooting your films, what size crew do you normally work with, as it is clear that this is an intimate, low-budget production?” I asked after moseying around the heart of the question for a while. “Our crew is usually the same group of 10 or 11 people,” he answered, among other things, in broken English. I was immediately satisfied for that extended moment of eye contact and artistic connection. It was reassuring to discover an acclaimed filmmaker who worked under similar conditions that I hope to, without the extraneous baggage that comes with a Hollywood production. Alonso restored my hope. I returned the following weekend for The Wayward Cloud, Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-Liang’s bizarre cinematic collage of musical, pornography, and contemplative drama. Once again, I had seen a confounding work that ignited a passionate response, encouraging another exchange that was interrupted this time by a translator who I suspect misinterpreted my question. However, this dividing line between Tsai and myself only augmented the sense of artistic mysticism surrounding him. Since these first two encounters with the Archive, I have regularly gone back. Though there are not always directors present, I can always rely on the theater to screen challenging work on a national and international level in optimal conditions and among a community of filmgoers who are searching for something much more than a simple entertainment. At the Archive, cinema is embraced as a lifestyle, something not just to pursue and follow but also to worship and savor, to recognize as an art form in a time when its life has been severely threatened.
text & photo · Carson Lund
The room on the twelfth floor of the Little Building, filled with heat excreting from our bodies, smelled of fading perfume and stale beer. There was the loud one, known for his excessive jewelry and contentious discourse; the funny one who always seems to be in a good mood when everyone else is not; the confident actor whose smile and charm can sway anyoneâ€™s opinion; the eccentric young woman whose distinctive smell and laugh can be recognized from miles away; the Politician whose generosity overshadows his sarcastic humor; the tranquil and considerate actress; the clearly audible and lusty actress; the blond superstar; the silly Cali-Brah; the crafty boy scout; and me, the girl who isnâ€™t really sure who she is. As we sat there, all of us cross-legged except for the lucky fellow who got to sit in the wheelchair (that was stolen some random night in November), we enjoyed good stories and indulged in too much alcohol for a Wednesday night. During this exact moment, it finally sank in that freshman year was almost over. I still remember moving into
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the Little Building. Not only was I surrounded by hundreds of kids, walking around with microwaves, sheets, and fridges, but was also bombarded by their overly excited, yet emotional parents. I escaped from the madness and put my things down in room 1216. The room was small, half the size of my room at home, with dirty carpet and stale white walls. I put my collage of high school friends on the wall next to my bed, unpacked my clothes, and put my books against the window. Now what? I asked myself over and over again. I slept. For about 13 hours and waited for my roommate
to move in before I peeled myself out of my rigid and dense mattress. Freshman year consists of two things: learning how to study and taking part in an immense amount of immature activity. Acting like an idiot and then reflecting can be the best way to learn. Sometimes during freshman year of college you just have to push shit to the limit. You have to test how far you can go before ruining your life and costing your parents 50,000 dollars. Have I ever been arrested? Thank God not, but ask yourself this: does taking more than enough vodka shots and peeing your pants on the T sound
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like an excellent night? It was one of the most embarrassing moments of life, but I will remember it forever. One weekend in the middle of October, when the weather was cold enough to wear a jacket, but warm enough for your fingers to be exposed to the cold air I went out with some friends. After I drank some wine, drank some beer, went to a party, and came home (the same thing I did the weekend before), I stumbled upon some incoherent people on my floor. All of us, imbalanced and dazed, talked and laughed at the simple things before going to bed. When I stumbled out of my room, my feet squeaked against the hard tile and I almost fell into water fountain that was directly in front of me. The narrow hallways seemed like the streets of New York City. People were loud, running around, acting like they were eight years old again. I was trying to remember where I dropped my toothbrush when I heard some gagging noises coming from the men’s bathroom across from my room. Being curious, and still in a drunken stupor, I entered the bathroom to find
one of my hallmates hovered over the toilet. To my surprise, no one was taking care of him, so I offered him some crackers, a bottle of water, and hug and tried to be as motherly as possible without making him feel uncomfortable. The next day, when I saw him in the hallway, he grinned at me with a sincere look in his eyes, telling me thank you through his facial gestures. This nod, this grin, this look of recognition, was the first time since I moved to The Little Building that I felt like I was genuinely appreciated for my random act of kindness. Since that night in October, I began to notice the many people who roam my hallway during the night. I began to notice the people who live four doors down from me, six doors down from me, even eight doors down from me. It began with small talk, then with conversations, and then to appreciating what these people were passionate about. Soon enough, we were saying hi to each other on Boylston. Through getting to know so many different people, I was able to discover the true meaning and beauty of people that I
wouldn’t necessarily know without being assigned to live within such close proximities. That’s the beauty of college. People show what they know, reflect on their past, and share stories. I realized over the course of the year that college lasts four years, but you are only a freshman once. Virtually a fourth of my life is over, perhaps the best fourth. But as I look back, I realize why this year has become so close to my heart. The people on the twelfth floor supported all of my immature activities, reckless partying, and irresponsible decisions. I love the twelfth floor because we all believed that this was the only time in our lives when we can go to bed at 2 am and it feel early. We can walk into a friend’s room, see them basically naked, and continue to eat C-Store food like nothing is wrong. I love the twelfth floor because we can all drink Mr. Boston and Natural Ice Beer and still feel like the classiest people alive. If one of us were to pee in the elevator, we would all laugh and salute him. As these once strangers became my friends, my family, I have be-
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come a person with a better understanding of how people can change your life. Many nights have become blurred into one memory, a group of people becoming one identity. The twelfth floor has made me realize that although achievement and success is gratifying, getting away from who you are, showing yourself a new light is the actual achievement. I was once a girl who did not want change, who was satisfied with her life. A girl, going through life, becoming a woman, who thought her world was perfect. Yet through these long months of common room study sessions, late night hair dying, rounds of true color board games, film screening, music sharing, and advice giving… we have become a mosaic—pieces of tile bound together to make one picture. The more we are able to resemble to each other, the more we belong in the ranks of family. text · Kirsten Judson image · anvari.org
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testimonials what does volunteering mean to you?
I am still in awe at the fact that I walked into the Paramount expecting a day of Shakespeare, and walked out after taking a journey through
what it means to me to be American, my culture, and my profession. What better what to spend my time? — Jayson James (volunteer for Commonwealth Shakespeare Company)
I found that through my experience with Boston Cares and Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic, I learned a lot about myself and got to meet new people and be involved in the community. I would consider this a definite win. — Cheryl Rafuse (volunteer for Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic)
It is easy to forget when responsibilities overwhelm you, and by reminding myself to make my own change in my community I did myself and my society a service, which I believe is the purest form of civic engagement. — Chris Peck (Volunteer for Jewish Vocational Services)
The whole goal of Community Cinema is to help the community become more educated and involved in the key social issues of today. Members of the community are encouraged to attend in hopes that they will become inspired to make a difference. — Jaclyn Cangro (Participant in Community Cinema)
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The Boston community is a thriving metropolis of active and involved individuals. Getting involved in the many community groups and activities can open doors you never expected to be presented to you. As volunteers we all have had experiences with Boston Cares and other community organizations. Through reading about our experiences we hope that you will become interested in volunteering and getting out there and being active. Through Boston Cares there are endless ways to be involved in your community. They have a calendar of events where anyone can find something they’re interested in. They provide the opportunity to volunteer anywhere from Boston, to Cambridge, to the surrounding suburbs. You can sign up to knit for charity, teach English classes, or usher a theatre or music event. There is no limit to the types of events you can become involved with, just with the click of your mouse. But if volunteer work doesn’t interest you, do not fear! Being active in the community is more than volunteering. Taking action and going to that restaurant you have heard so much about, walking the areas of Boston you’ve heard about but never visited and learning where the free entertainment is throughout the city can give you the excitement you want in your everyday life. You can be active in your community simply by getting out there, exploring, pursuing a career or extracurricular goal, or by simply taking the time to enjoy Boston and the people in it. That is what action is all about: taking the initiative to become involved with what is going on beyond your front door. We want to give you a starting place for your future adventure into the Boston community, whether through Boston Cares and volunteering, or through visiting those places you’ve always wanted to go.
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civic engagement: The act of being civically engaged. To interact with people and things in one's surrounding environment in a positive manner. To help others, whether they are a friend or not. The man in this photo epitomizes my definition of ‘civic engagement.’ He is doing a service to his fellow man. Sure he could easily leave the excrement there, risk a fine, and ruin someone’s day who just wanted a pleasant stroll through the Common. But no, this man is above that kind of tomfoolery. He is a take charge of his and his dogs’ actions kind of guy. He is using the wonderful public space provided to him by the great city of Boston and making sure it stays clean while he’s at it. The Boston Common exists only because of people like this guy; people who go outside and enjoy the outdoors. This man probably has no idea I am taking his photo. He probably also does not realize the impact he is having on his community just by picking up his dog’s crap. I bet this guy also has no idea the look on his face at this moment is priceless. But I see him. I know he is trying to be a good guy. Does it matter? No, of course not. If I did not notice he would have picked it up anyway because a stand-up guy like him always picks up after his doggie. And a very important lesson to be learned from this moment is whether or not someone knows you are civically engaged, it affects someone somewhere, and they, whoever they are, are glad to not step in dog poop for one more day. text & photo · Cheryl Rafuse
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volunteer reflection On Saturday, March 13th, I volunteered at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln. The project was Drumlin Farm’s annual Sap to Syrup pancake breakfast, which is one of the farm’s most successful fundraising events. I was initially drawn to this project because my hometown of Bedford is very close to Lincoln and my parents actually took me to Drumlin Farm pretty frequently when I was a kid to see its attractions like the petting zoo, the vegetable gardens, and the camps it hosted on school vacations. I always remembered it as a really great place for families to spend time together. I had not been back to Drumlin Farm for years, so I was excited to see if it was still the way I remembered it being. I was not particularly excited to get up at 6:30 AM to get to Drumlin Farm by 8 AM on a rainy morning. But once I arrived, I was pleased to see that the farm looked exactly the way I remembered it looking and I felt very ready to help out. There was a group of fifteen of us and the organizers of the project, two very nice women who worked at the farm, assigned us our jobs. Volunteers were assigned to prepare the food, serve the food, and clear tables. I was in the group assigned to clear the tables. Groups were seated for half hour slots, so every half hour we cleared and cleaned the tables for the next group. There were eight groups seated and the event ran from 9 AM to 1 PM.
I really enjoyed helping out with the event. It was extremely well organized and I felt very certain of what my job was and when and how I was supposed to do it. As volunteers, we were very well taken care of and they made our jobs very easy for us. We were even allowed to eat the breakfast when we had a free moment. I was also very impressed with the fact that Drumlin Farm tried to make the event as green as possible. They provided silverware instead of plastic utensils, and provided biodegradable cups and plates. This was something I particularly noticed, as it was my job to sort the wastre into trash and compost and I ended up putting almost all the waste into compost. I thought that this was extremely responsible of Drumlin Farm and it made me feel all the more like I was volunteering for an organization that I admired. My only complaint about the organization of the event was that at some points, I felt like I wasn’t given anything to do during the half hour periods when guests were eating. People who were cooking and serving were active almost all the time, but as a clearer I sometimes felt like I was doing a lot of standing around. However, I was able to find things to help out with, like helping guests carry food to their tables when their hands were full and overall, I felt satisfied with the amount of work I had done.
My favorite part about volunteering at this event was the exposure to the guests at the event. The event was largely attended by families with young children from around the area. I felt really connected to the group of people t the event, as I am from the area and Drumlin Farm was a part of my childhood. It really confirmed to me how important Drumlin Farm is to the community that I come from and it felt really rewarding to me to give back to a place that had nurtured me when I was young. It really felt like true civic engagement to me and I was so pleased to have had that experience. text · Sophie Bell
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learning on the ice
the story of a young journalist
When I got a chance to look around and enjoy the moment, I found myself sitting among men and women who were dressed in their professional attire. I looked over the ledge and heard the fans’ cheers before I could see them. The voices filling the stadium were coming from the opposing crowds of maroon and gold versus scarlet and white. The atmosphere was pure magic. Sports fans from all areas of Boston were present to witness the championship game of the Beanpot. In that moment, I had to sit back and think about all of the accomplishments I made in such a short period of time. Over the course of a week I had been named sports reporter, scored press credentials without outside assistance, and was filming my first package for Emerson Independent Video (EIV) News. It was a whirlwind experience that I had completely created for myself and I began to realize all my hard work from the previous months had not been in vain. Upon finally moving to Boston and starting my life at college, I was not sure what to expect. I had lived in a safe suburb, which I absolutely adored, my entire life. I was fairly blind to the variations college would have with high school. Knowing that I was to begin a new and probably different life in Boston, I moved into Emerson ready for whatever was to come my way.
Being a broadcast journalism major, I figured it would be a smart decision to become involved in one of the numerous news shows Emerson had to offer. After giving a horrible interview, I was presented with the position as a writer for EIV News. This position became tiresome and by second semester I was determined to land a higher one that would involve more effort and time, as well as offering more of an educational experience. I was granted this opportunity when I was offered the sports reporter position for the 6:00 EIV News after performing a much better interview. After reflecting, I slipped back into reporter mode. As I watched the hockey players skate back and forth, story ideas began to race through my mind and into my miniature red notebook. Somehow I would make a story out of what these fans were cheering for and my mind was working hard as I tried to think about the possible directions I could take. Once the game ended, I sped off with my camera crew in order to tape the press conference. Cameras lined the back of the room as all the reporters were in the ready, bursting to ask questions and receive good quotes. I was freaking out on the inside as a reporter introduced himself as someone working for EPSN. I stood in complete awe of these people. They spoke with such eloquence when addressing the
coach and knew exactly what to ask in order to get the players talking. I tried to keep complete composure in order to not let on that I was a new reporter who had only interviewed people for my high school newspaper. Once I regained composure, I walked onto the ice to shoot my standup. Not only was it a cool experience, it was something completely different. In my mind I created a competition between myself and the other reporters who were shooting on the ice. It kept my competitive spirit alive and made me want to do the best I could do. Walking on ice is a completely different experience from walking on the steady pavement, but somehow I was able to accomplish my task, even though I am one of the biggest klutzes in the world. I never would have been given this opportunity if I had not pushed myself in my freshman year. In the beginning of the year I would have never dreamed that I would be given the sports reporter position or able to land such amazing press credentials without any experience. Journalism is a field where it is important to get involved and start hands on experience early, which is exactly what I was able to do. text · Jackie Cangro
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chinatown a constant
When moving to Emerson, students are informed that they are moving to one of the most prime locations in Boston. The dormitories location in relation to the common and so many other city attractions such as Newbury St. the North End, and South Station, make Emerson’s real estate priceless. As a first year Emerson student I have visited all these student hot spots, but there is one that I believe is left off the list of destinations, and ironically it is one of the closest in relation to our campus. Boston’s Chinatown is a four block chunk of the city that is generally not an extremely high destination on student’s lists to visit in the city. In my experience many students that I have spoken to or live near do not have any desire to visit Chinatown. Chinatown should be realized for what it is (In Bos-
ton and everywhere else) which is a place where students can go for cheap (sometimes knockoff) clothes, goods and food. When I visit a Chinatown, I experience a sense of familiarity that all Chinatowns share from my hometown of Honolulu, to the massive Chinatown that sprawls across the lower side of New York City. Like the business owners who band together for a sense of comfort and familiarity, I feel a sense of knowing when I walk through the (endearingly) grimy streets of a Chinatown. To me it is a place in a city where I can go to take advantage of all the deals and meals that are available to me nearly year round. (Chinese shop owners don’t believe in taking holidays. Trust me.) Admittedly being Chinese probably aids my willingness to venture into small pawn
shops and restaurants in Chinatown, but people don’t seem to realize that business is business and Asian-American shop owners aren’t generally prejudiced people. In certain cities it is almost a loss if you don’t visit Chinatown for a meal at a famous dumpling house or to buy a three dollar case for your three hundred dollar phone. Certain aspects of Chinatown almost make the area seem like a portal between every city that one can travel into and out of at his or her own will. This feeling brings a sense of comfort to me in Boston which is a completely different environment from where I am used to living. The feeling that I get from walking through the streets and shops of Chinatown is one that helps remedy the fact that I am across the country from my family. Many people ask
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how I haven’t grown sick of Boston’s weather and hustle and bustle yet. One of the secrets is being able to escape into Chinatown if only to run errands. Rather than an escape though, I use Chinatown as a link that reminds me of home and therefore adds to my comfort level marginally. Finding zones of comfort is a tactic utilized by artists and writers often, but in this case serve to keep me sane in a completely unfamiliar environment. Though travelling to new places is an integral part of building an identity it is important to keep everything you’ve experienced under your belt so you don’t forget the places you’ve been. I’ve spoken to many people who say that certain parts of Boston remind them of home and I can speculate that perhaps some of them are using the same tactic I am to keep themselves
familiar in a new environment. Much like the fact that every single Chinatown is similar but different, every place that I travel to will have certain aspects that will remind me of other places I’ve been even though it’s a completely new location. It is one of the beauties of travelling that allows a traveler to remember the places he or she has been when visiting a new destination. I understand this concept very well because I live in a place that can’t even be reached by driving from the contiguous United States. Of course it’s natural that every now and then I feel homesick especially if I’m on my own. College marks the longest I’ve ever been away from home since it’s not practical to travel back to Hawaii for every single break or random long weekend. Finding places like China-
town where I can feel a little more comfortable is an integral part of my survival here in Boston. It may not be home, but it’s a place that I can go to escape school every now and then and while I’m at it I can usually procure a delicious meal for under 5 dollars. text · Justin Chun photo · Sophie Bell
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“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.” — Peter F. Drucker What Peter F. Drucker, a renowned writer and social ecologist, addresses is the embodiment of what our section is trying to project; the importance of reflection in a civically engaged person’s life. We as the writers aim to emphasize the value of reflection through our pieces. We have tackled the meaning of civic engagement to us as the youth of our time and although it varies from person to person, we can all agree that reflecting on our actions is an integral part of being civically engaged. We have come to the conclusion that reflecting on work creates more effective civic engagement. We would like to differentiate between what we feel is civic engagement and effective civic engagement. To us, being civically engaged can happen in multiple ways. Whether it be going out and volunteering, or simply doing your duty as a citizen. However, to be effectively civically engaged, the work cannot stop there. What we learn from those moments must carry over into our everyday lives, thought processes, and demeanor. We must take the time to stop, and think, about what we have done and what we are contributing to the world we live in. There has been a tendency among our generation to be lax and unconcerned when it comes to giving back or making a difference. Our generation has become what is known as the “me generation”. We implore you to strive to be the “us generation.” We are not asking for you to become an activist. We are not asking you to go out and change the world singlehandedly. But we as the writers are convinced that by reflecting on the work that we do, we can create a more effective, civically engaged community. We ask that you take a moment to think about your world and the little things you can do to make it better for not only yourself, but also the people around you. This section on reflection offers you as the audience a way to take more effective action based upon your reflection. Through our memoirs and examples of personal expression, we travel through our experiences while recognizing the world around us; and we hope that this is something that can affect you, as much as it does us.
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everyone roots for
On the surface, I didn’t think playing Trivial Pursuit with senior citizens at the Hale House would be rewarding. I really should know better by now than to underestimate the value of service. I also should have remembered how influential my games of cribbage with my grandfather were. What I wouldn’t give to play another game with him. There is just something about competition that dials up the intensity with a person of old age. Maybe it is the stimulation of many otherwise inactive centers of the brain that injects the youth back into their faces better than Botox ever could. I suppose that one could suggest that games of knowledge recall can make an old person feel empowered. Whatever the psychology behind it, when my project leader Katie told me how appreciative the “regulars” are to have fresh a pair of eyes to glance at across the table, any physical ail-
ments or age-related impediments were invisible to me. All I saw were friends and adversaries. I saw players of the game. Sherry and Edwin. These were the so-called regulars. They didn’t seem eager at first, but when the time came to tell us what the rules were, they had it down to a science. A very warped, and less structured science, but a science nonetheless. We essentially played collectively, trying to figure out the answers as a group. Out the gate, I felt I was at a critical disadvantage. The Trivial Pursuit edition we played with was from 1985, five years before I was born, but hope abounded when I realized it would be a collaborative effort. Hope abounded for the elderly residents as well. For once the endgame was not death or debilitating illness. It was fun, possibly accompanied by victory. The intense and guarded expression plastered on Sherry’s face began to fade and Edwin’s perpetual smile began to widen as the game went on. It was not our prowess, but our participation as volunteers that was the measure of success for the Hale House residents. They didn’t say as much, but the ease with which they spoke and the barriers of selfconsciousness seemed less restrictive. Unaware that they could not walk as they once did, or that their
years on this Earth were dwindling, they simply lived. To think I had an integral role in bestowing that gift upon them feels like glorious compensation for the soul. Edwin commanded the lead at four wedges with little time left for our hour of service, and I was handed the dice. A magical run commenced in which I started with one wedge and finished with a lead tying four. I could not surpass that number, so due to time constraints, we assembled a makeshift sudden death. Contestant picks the category, Edwin was given first dibs. Unable to answer correctly with the answer (narcissism), I had to answer what communist nation was closest to the United States for the win. And it is NOT Cuba. Soviet Union was the correct answer. I still came out a winner though, because my adversary who had matched me in brainpower that night glowed as he toothily grinned pining, “I hope you come again soon?” Mission accomplished, and evening validated. This is why we root for the underdog, because they make us feel like anything is possible. One can create the illusion of imperviousness to time. That night the lesson was reenforced for me, that it is easily done, with compassion.
25 text · Chris Peck
New Jersey is known for many, many things. From our radioactive rain to massive political scandals, one could say that NJ is the “armpit” of America. But, one thing no one can EVER take away from us, is that we have the most (and greatest) diners in the country! A diner to a teenager in NJ is like a church, a sanctuary where you go in times of need to confess your deepest sins to your closest friends while enjoying three full pots of coffee. I can safely say that I average about 4 trips a week to my local diner. It’s a nice place, with odd cylindrical lamps hanging from the ceiling, a “bar” where you can sit and order food, and an atmosphere that screams “only the coolest of cool and really old people come here.”
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It is easy to say that the “Broadway Diner, ‘Home of the Worlds Best Pancakes,’” holds a special place in my heart. This is why, my first and greatest mission when I arrived in Boston, was to locate not a bookstore, or food store, but a diner! I’m happy to say my quest was a great success. I had heard nothing but rumors of an illustrious, seedy little diner (the only one in Boston), so naturally I HAD to investigate. The only problem I ran into was the no one seemed to know where this temple was located! Probably because most people in Boston frequent the diner while highly intoxicated to quench those “thirsty Thursday” hunger pains. Let me clearly state that going to a diner drunk, is a travesty! How
can one fully enjoy the godly experience of a diner if they are too drunk to remember it the next morning? I digress…. I embarked on my quest with my best friend from home, who also attends the same college as me, on a Sunday afternoon. I was armed only with an iphone, ambition, and that horrible hunger pang one gets, that can only be satiated by disco fries, or a clog your arteries cheeseburger with extra grease. Our quest took us through the cultural and crime ridden Mecca known as China Town, over a highway entrance, and through a maze of random hidden streets, until finally after an exhausting 20minute search, we found it. The moment I laid eyes on the half lit “South Street Diner” sign, my heart skipped
a seedy little place
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a beat. It was smaller than my diner, it was shaped oddly like a diner, and you could tell the establishment catered only to the most distinguished riff raff in Boston. It resembled a typical movie diner with it’s rectangular but rounded shape and corner location. I had to stop myself from running to the door. Instead, I approached this heavenly vessel with caution, enjoying every moment leading up to me opening the door. And that’s when I ran into a problem, I couldn’t open the door and it looked dark inside. “A diner… CLOSED?!?!?” I thought to myself, unheard of. The sign clearly said it was a 24hr spiritual palace, and so I tried the door again, and again, but still got nothing! I was crushed, my heart was broken, and my spirit left my body. The worst thought ever crossed my mind, “what if the diner is closed for good?” The thought made me die a little inside. I could not live in a city where such a divine place could be allowed to close. My only reminder of home, closed. There was nothing I could do but walk away, head hung low, dragging my feet. And then like a crack of lightening, a flash of energy and ambition hit me. I was going to open that door or die trying! I approached the door and with all of
the strength I had, pulled…the door almost right of the hinges! There stood a large black man, with an apron on, looking at me rather puzzled “you must be really hungry,” he said. As we shared a laugh, I felt the color come back to my face, and my heart resume its natural rhythm. “Sit anywhere,” the great shepherd said. And so we did. As I sat there I began to take in my surrounding. The booths of this diner were ratty and falling apart, it was very small, and had an open kitchen and grill so you could actually see your food being cooked. You could see the chef standing by the grill sweating profusely and all I could help but think was, “well at least he’s wearing a hairnet.” I was in diner heaven! It was such a seedy and sketchy place that could only be rivaled by the types you see on the list of the “100 Worst Places For You To Eat In America.” And I loved every square inch of it. It was not like my diner at home. It only had a two page menu, and a small insert, it was over priced, and smelled odd (a mixture of char, grease, body odor, and Febreze). But at that point, the idea of a $15 cheeseburger meal was a steal. As the jukebox played a happy tune, I ordered and sat back in a dazed, heightened state as I
let the experience wash over me. I knew then and there that I would be returning to this Godlike establishment many, many times throughout my college life. To me, South Street Diner is a little slice of home. It reminds me of the times when my friends and I feel adventurous and decide to try a “different” diner, rather than the one we always go to. Either way, it’s still nice to have a diner so close. So what if I don’t go there for long intellectual conversation, or if I have yet to try their coffee, the fact that it exists and that I can go there is enough for me. Sitting in that diner brings to me a wash of memories that make me feel good. Memories that when I am in doubt or feeling blue, reminds me what I’m fighting for and why I am here. Its great to know that in times of need, home is only a trek “through the cultural and crime ridden Mecca known as China Town, over a highway entrance, and through a maze of random hidden streets,”…or (as I learned during my second attempt to that wonderful place) just a straight walk down Stuart Street, but honestly, where’s the fun in that? text · Jayson James
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start Jumpstart seemed like a dream workstudy for me at first. I love working with kids and I had $1,500.00 to make so what was not to like. Little did I know how vast the commitment would be to this “volunteer position.” You see as a Jumpstart corps member you are required to perform 300 hours of Jumpstart related service. Now as you can guess $1500.00 does not last through 300 hours of service. So much of our work with the program would be volunteering, us giving to the community. We as a Jumpstart team of about six individuals go to designated preschools on designated days. I currently go to Dorchester Place preschool on Mondays and Wednesdays. I’m on a team of seven Emerson College students, most of whom have a bit of work-study money. We work with preschool kids, generally age 4-6, from low income neighborhoods. We help give them resources and learning opportunities they may not otherwise be able to receive. Working with the kids is a dream, they are tons of fun and make you want to have fun no matter what mood
your in. We each work with a specific “partner child” throughout our time at the preschool. My partner child is Kevin Ly. Kevin is the most AMAZING child I have met. He is so smart, so funny, and so ADORABLE. I honestly at this point feel like Kevin and I truly have become friends. We joke around, speak random Spanish words and count things all the time. We have a dog and a cat, both of which are named Maggie Ly. Kevin makes me chicken noodle soup every time we go to dramatic play. We basically have the best two hours together possible. It has been amazing to work with Kevin and to know that I have had some kind of significant part in his childhood. I gave him four hours of educational fun a week. Working with Jumpstart truly has been a rewarding experience. It’s actually been kind of nice doing community service and not really thinking about it because it’s become such a big part of my routine. It was the best possible way that I could get involved with my new home here in Boston! text · Maggie Sinkiewicz
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It was a chilly night in January, and I found myself walking along Tremont St. towards Government Center. Naturally, I was shaking like a leaf thanks to the below freezing Boston temperature, and began to question why I had decided to step outside in the first place. Not to mention, questioning why I had decided to wear my lightest pair of jeans with only a leather jacket. I was walking with three of my friends who were talking in the background, and walking much too slow for the temperature we were braving. The night shared sounds of sirens with us, echoing in the distance against the hum of the cars driving past. Our destination on this cold, winter nightâ€”the Boston Harbor.
My friends and I had been talking about going to the Harbor for quite some time now, and determined that January 23rd was the night to do it. Also, in being the geniuses that we are, we figured that walking to the Harbor was the best idea; which it would have been if it werenâ€™t below freezing outside. By the time we had reached Faneuil Hall, a little past Government Center, I was not all that content. I was freezing, my face felt like a block of ice, and our group was still moving at the pace of a snail. I immediately began to fully regret making this expedition. Because we were only halfway there, I suggested we turn around and head back, considering the state of the weather. However, I was over-
ruled. We continued on through Faneuil Hall, passing families huddling together for warmth, a small breakdancing group with hot steam rising up off of their bodies, little kids running around throwing snow at each other, shops making their last transactions, and not to mention people practically running past trying to escape the cold. Everything was so busy and rushed. I myself found my legs to be moving more quickly than usual. Things were becoming so stressful and agitating. I became restless and anxious and almost overwhelmed by the rushed nature of the popular site. Needless to say, by the time we reached our destination, I was in an unhappy state of mind. I could not feel my
hands, my feet, my face, or anything for that matter. At that point, I didn’t care about where I was going I just wanted to go back to my warm room. However, I then realized that I had already come this far, I would regret it if I did not continue on. We made our way through Faneuil Hall, across yet another busy street, down a small alleyway, and then a large archway became visible. As we made our way under the arch, my spirits suddenly lifted. I was looking out onto the deep blue water of the Boston Harbor. I suddenly felt warm, at ease, and calm. I began ignoring the biting wind whipping my face, and became mesmerized by the lights from the buildings in the distance, shimmering on the
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surface of the water. Boats skimmed quietly in and out of picture, and everything seemed so peaceful. I walked across the wooden walkway and sat on a concrete slab right above the shoreline. I could hear the water lapping at the edge ever so slightly, and could hear the distant foghorns sounding. The city, for the first time in a long time, was at peace with me; and I was at peace with it. I was able to think clearly and be alone with my thoughts. Even though I had people surrounding me, I hadn’t felt so close to just myself in a long time. There was this moment in time where I was enjoying something so simple and easy; there were just the sounds of the ocean moving and the picturesque
city image glittering in the water’s reflection. It reminded me of home. It reminded me of my quiet suburban city I had grown so sick of after eighteen years. It reminded me of the way I would step outside and all would be quiet. I could hear the crows cawing and distant lawn mowers purring. I could see the little kids on my street riding around on their bikes and drawing on the asphalt with chalk. I could hear the quiet rustle of the palm trees in my front yard, and I could feel the warm breeze skim across my face. I felt all of this, even though I was so far away from home. I think this is why this moment meant so much to me. I was three-thousand miles away
the sky is wicked huge. from my native California suburban home. Three-thousand miles away from the city I thought was just so normal, unexciting, and usual. I was currently in a busy urban city, with so much to do, so much to see… and I guess it just brought me back home. It was the point at which I began to appreciate my home, where I grew up, the weather, my high school. The point at which I started missing it. The unusual peace in the Harbor, the nature that surrounded
reflect this place, it brought balance. The Harbor brought the balance between business and calmness. This place is what not only made me appreciate my home, but it helped me realize how good I really have it. I have the best of both worlds. I get to spend half a year in an amazing city. A city so full of life and things to do, full of new friends and experiences…even a city full of snow in the Winter and beautiful colors in the Fall. But I also get the
warm, constant sun, the openness, the palm trees, the innocence, my family, my close friends. I am able to really experience two completely different worlds—how lucky am I? This is exactly what the trip to the Harbor did for me. It brought me home; it brought me to a place of settlement in my own heart. text & photos · Ashley Maietta
IMAGINE imagine imagine
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You know when you’re walking down the street? Everything is perfect, the sun is out, this wind blows through the trees and you think to yourself ‘How could life be any better than this?’ Then you’re rattled from your daydreams by a timid voice: ‘Could you spare some change?’ Initially, you may be put off. Not only is this stranger asking for your personal possessions, he is ruining your perfect day. Before you run to the nearest park bench to stare into the sun and attempt a reconnection with mother earth, consider this: 7681 Boston men, women and children didn’t go home after filling out their 2007 census, because they had no home to go to. And the homeless rate in our city is rising. Ignoring our homeless won’t help them. What can each of us do about it?
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a step back:
reflecting on my ushering experience with Boston Cares One of my volunteering experiences with Boston Cares was ushering for the play “Not Enough Air” at the Central Square Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Immediately after, I wrote up an immediate reflection, documenting what I thought were the most important bits and pieces of my experience. I mostly wrote about two people in the audience that particularly caught my eye as opposed to the actual work that I did there. The various duties I had weren’t very intensive, so I ended up more as an observer, which was fine with me, as I find people watching to be very entertaining. Looking back at my experience through Boston Cares, and hearing so many stories about projects my peers have done, I’d consider my volunteer project to be a success; (I’ve heard a few tales of some pretty unappealing projects). After doing some volunteer work here in Boston, it makes me wonder why more people don’t try to do
their part. Boston Cares truly has projects to fit everyone’s interests; I, for example, got to spend a few hours watching a play free of charge. I realize now that volunteering doesn’t have to be working at a soup kitchen, or playing Bingo with the elderly. Although these are both great ways to get involved, there are countless other opportunities to volunteer- you just need to look for them. You can still do your part, regardless of your age, interests, or the amount of time you have available to volunteer. You don’t need to immerse yourself completely in volunteer work- civic engagement doesn’t need to control your life. Just by doing a little bit here and there when you are able to, and by making a conscious effort, you can be civically engaged. text · Jessica Hiestand
One out of every 600 pit bulls finds a good home. That means only one of them finds a family to play with them, walk them, feed them and love them. The other 599 are, for lack of a better term, screwed. The picture to the right is of my pit bull, Tupelo. She’s a total clumsy goofball. She’s the kind of dog that can cause numerous disastrous events one right after another but her face is so cute that you can’t help but love her. I miss her on a daily basis since I‘ve been at school. I have no one to cuddle to sleep, no one to watch run back and forth down the hall aimlessly, and no one to scratch my legs when they jump on me. Tupelo is the lucky one in comparison to the other 599 who will either be fought, abandoned, euthanized, murdered, abused, neglected or all of the above. Although pit bulls are especially present in animal shelters today there are still thousands of animals who are being put to sleep every month. Since I can’t take home all of those other animals, nor will I ever be able to, I volunteer so I can help them in the best way I can. When I arrived in Boston I immediately applied to volunteer at several Boston based
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rescue groups and animal shelters. I was accepted at the Animal Rescue League to take photographs of adoptable animals for the website. This was fun, difficult and interesting. Most of the animals are so excited to be out of the cage they are practically jumping out of their skin! They want human connection so badly that they would rather cuddle and play with you than their picture taken. Overall, it was very great besides the sometimes supercilious attitude of the people who work there or other long term volunteers. I am so passionate about helping animals that dealing with people I’m not so fond of is worth it. I hope that everyone can find that one thing that they are really passionate about. Something they will volunteer for even after the fact that they’ll get class credit or service hours for it. I know that mine is helping animals. I love doing other things as well but right now, I’ve got to help all the other Tupelos who won’t find a Chelsea to take them home as much as I can. text & photo · Chelsea Williams
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“I got it!” Alec said from across the room. “This isn’t even that hard.” At Xcel GED math tutoring, I got to pass on some of my knowledge to those in need. My class of fifteen adult students looked to me for answers, a person only about half their age. Teaching is not an entirely new experience for me. As the oldest of 13 cousins, I have always been the one to ask. I spent years helping with homework in all topics and imparting my best lessons on working hard and giving back. I also taught a course at my high school and a bio lab for fifth graders. Why did Xcel feel different? I thought to myself after leaving the event and again the next week. Helping
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people is natural, it takes real heart, real dedication to go totally our of your way to help a complete stranger. I don’t pretend to have all of these things inherently, in fact, by attempting to display these characteristics; I learn just how hard it is. Civic service is a lifestyle, not a one off. Alec’s success gave me a different kind of fulfillment. His self improvement now inspires me to carry on with my own desire to work on myself. text · Jordan Drutman
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Like a gift, Civic Engagement comes in all shapes and sizes weather it be volunteering, donating to charity, or simply voting. Like a gift, when it comes to civic engagement it’s the thought that counts. Civic Engagement has no set definition. It can be interpreted in many ways because it can be done in many ways. Civic Engagement is a form of aiding the community. A great organization that allows people in greater Boston to become civically engaged is Boston Cares. One of the events I participated in with Boston Cares was Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic. I didn’t know much about the event but I knew that I liked to read, and reading for others seemed like a fun way to help the community. The center for Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic is located right by Porter Square in Cambridge. When I arrived I met with a man who began to educate me on what is done at the center. He told me that Blind people listen to the recordings as they read
along with Braille. He also told me that reading while listening to the recordings allowed Dyslexic people to learn proper pronunciations. Before I began recording, the instructor gave me detailed directions on how to record and what to do if I messed up. The process looked complicated but once I got into the booth, I got the hang of it. Although I had to read footnotes, I tried my hardest to read clear and concisely. I messed up a couple of times but was able to record over it the way the instructor showed me. After I finished my session the instructor complimented me and said I did a great job. I felt really proud of myself because I knew that I had shared the gift of reading with someone else. text · Andrés Acosta
the gift of
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We met in the alleyway by the Walker Building and walked to the Esplanade. We met one of the employees of the Esplanade Association who told us all about the park and what the Association does. Now I’ll tell you: the park was established a hundred years ago and about three million people visit the park each year! Pretty cool, right? The Esplanade Association is a non-profit organization made up mostly of Boston citizens that help keep the park clean. That day, we were told about how the dead leaves by the river have to be raked up all the time. It’s not just because of aesthetics; bacteria grow and somehow it is harmful to the river. So, he handed us gloves and rakes and we went to work. We only had about forty-five minutes to work, but with the whole class, we filled about twenty bags full of leaves!
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esplanade The employee also told us about how we can continue volunteering with the Association. They have a special rate membership for students, that gets you discounts at various local businesses. There are also internship possibilities (over the summer, you can help clean the park and teach a variety of classes to youths), or you can just stop in whenever and ask how you can help. Since I have been here, I have only been to the Esplanade a handful of times, which seems ridiculous because it is so close. But I am going to start heading down there more often, even if it is just to rake leaves from the bank. It is such a beautiful park and, as a citizen of Boston, I feel like it is my duty to help keep it clean. text · Gabrielle Nunez photos via Wikimedia Commons