Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What's Next For Me

Now that I am a senior in college and my main focus is transitioning out of being a full time student I am really thinking critically about how all of my volunteer hours can help me after I graduate. I know that it looks good on a resume and it reflects well on my character, however I want to have a more tangible connection with my community service experience and I don't want it to end here. My long term goal is to own performing and fine arts venues around the Greater Philadelphia area however I know that It will take a lot of hard work, determination, and focus to accomplish this goal. I believe that my volunteering has helped sculpt these attributes in me and right out of college I would like to get some type of entry level art administration position and continue to do community outreach. Once I do reach my long term goal of owning a venue and one day venues around the city I want to not only facilitate the arts but I also want to facilitate community outreach and use my venue as a resource for the Philadelphia community! 

I'm so appreciative of all that I've learned and experienced through the community scholars program and my time as a volunteer was extremely enjoyable! I would like to thank the office of Career Services and The Salvation Army Red Shield Family Residence for all of your help! 

The Benefits of Volunteering

Most people begin volunteering because of the numerous professional benefits that it produces, but I was lucky enough to just have a natural urge to volunteer! My parents and siblings exposed me to volunteering at a very young age so by the time I was a freshman in high school I was a seasoned volunteer and spent about 20 hours a week on community service initiatives! Over the past 8 years I have volunteered for The Hamilton County Juvenile Court program (Cincinnati, Ohio) , The Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, The Cincinnati Urban League, The Cincinnati & Philly AIDS Walk, The Red Shileld, PAWS Shelter, and more! As president of the black student union on campus, African Diaspora Collective I have made it a point to align our mission with community outreach and volunteering especially since Philadelphia has such a large African American community! Basically I know the power of community service because I witnessed and benefitted from it first hand when I was little so I know how important it is to continue volunteering through out my life! :) 

What I learned!

I believe that I have benefitted in numerous ways while working at the Red Shield. I had the opportunity to work on and manage projects, build activities for children, tutor, and learn key communication skills, but what I think I learned the most is how much you can push yourself when you are passionate about something. I know that if I wouldn't of been passionate about inner city children and especially inner city children in trauma situations that I would of lost my patience during my time there. But I really felt that the work I was doing was important so I felt that it was important to give it my all! By maintaining this attitude the children immediately welcomed me and we all got along well. Mike and the other employees at the Red Shield were great examples of how to conduct yourself in that type of environment so I was able to learn from them and imitate their teaching and leadership habits. Overall, I really believe that I left the Red Shield as a more well rounded individual and my involvement in the Greater Philadelphia Community will not stop here! 

The Parents

Throughout my time at The Red Shield I found my biggest adjustment to be dealing with the parents. Regardless of why I was there, I had to interact with the parents because I was interacting directly with their children. For the most part all the parents were pleasant, and they were always nice to me; however sometimes it would bother me how the parents either spoke or treated their children. I felt like they didn't foster a nurturing environment for the children and all of the bad habits that the adults had directly and severely rubbed off on the children. Alot of the disciplinary problems that Mike and I had to deal with was because the children either were imitating their parent(s), rebelling toward all adults because of their parents, or their parents didn't properly teach them how to conduct themselves in school and in public. They didn't grow up in a household that amplified respect so they didn't know how to show respect. It was disheartening but I couldn't pass judgement because these were children that had to grow up FAST and been faced with things that even some adults didn't have to face. These children were use to either helping raise themselves or COMPLETELY raising themselves. So with this in mind I worked my hardest while I was there to provide an example for the children so that I could teach them that even though you didn't grow up in the most ideal circumstances you could still grow up to be exceptional! :) 

Art Classes

After working with the children for a while, I began to realize how a lot of them were interested in the arts and quite good at them! Once tutoring time was done, some of the children would ask to play the keyboard that the facility had or draw or play make believe. So Mike and I decided to capitalize on that and try and put together classes for the children at U'arts. I recruited student artist including, Sydney Andrews (Multidisciplinary/Print Making '14), Lionel Forrester Jr. (Drum Performance '15), Afiya Alleyne (Vocal Performance '15) Damala Haire (Vocal Performance '15) Tiffani Holland (Film '14) Myles Brown (Illustration '15) and myself. Michael facilitated a training for all of us, in which we learned about teaching young children and dealing with children in trauma situations. Also, we worked closely with the Office of Student Life to help sponsor and support the classes. During our time with the children we taught them basic music skills such as rhythm and melody; drawing technique; and the power of acting and expression! Overall all of the children really enjoyed working with the student artist and everyone benefitted from the experience! 

U'Arts Halloween Trip

As many people can recall from 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast during October and kept most children from celebrating Halloween. Unfortunately, the children at the Red Shield wouldn't of even been able to go trick or treating even if the storm didn't hit because none of them had homes and the halfway house they all lived in wasn't in a neighborhood that accommodated halloween traditions. So with the help of Ladies of Service, Mike and I were able to bring the children at the Red Shield down to the university of the Arts to celebrate Halloween! The children were given a concert by the Rumble ensemble and then were able to come on stage and play the drums themselves! My favorite child, Hannifah got the chance to play drums and was a natural! It was very inspiring to see how children can just be inclined to the arts! Then they were all taken to the division of student affairs and was able to go trick or treating in each office! This was definitely one of my favorite events to host for the children!

Mike O'Bryan | Red Shield Supervisor

Ever since I was a freshman, I have received the chance to meet some amazing people at the university and in the Greater Philadelphia area, but I think one of the most influential people that I have met is my mentor Mike O'Bryan. During my two years as a SISPA/Community Scholars volunteer I worked for Mike at his job and learned a great deal. Michael attend the University of the Arts and graduated in 2006 with his Undergrad in Vocal Music. He went off to work in non-profit at the Salvation Army Red Shield Family Residence as the Youth Services Director. Over the years he has nurtured an interest in children in me and now it has become on of my passions. Both Mike and I came from trauma house holds when we were children and so we relate closely to the children that we helped at the Red Shield. Mike personally can speak to the psychological implications of children who have been faced with trauma at a very young age and I am so lucky to have met such a committed, passionate leader of the community! 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tutoring | E.Joi McNeill

Before I moved to Philadelphia, I never really took great interest in tutoring. I maintained the grades to be eligible to tutor but I never really thought I'd be that good at it. After entering my freshman year at the University of the Arts, I had the opportunity to volunteer with U'Arts Alum, Mike O'Bryan through the student organization, African Diaspora Collective. I began tutoring children between the ages of 4-15 at the Salvation Army Red Shield Family Residence for about 4 hours a week. After joining the UArts Community Scholars program, I committed my core community service at the Red Shield and I had the opportunity to not only help these children a few days a week, but I started to build a relationship with them! I knew who was good at what, who struggled with something, and who needed a little bit more of my attention. I helped children with math, science, and writing. I met some of my favorite students while tutoring them for 2 years. I had a chance to witness their math and reading skills improve and parents we very appreciative for my work. I'm not sure if I'm the best tutor but I truly enjoyed the experience and hope I helped the children the best I could! 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

"Amplified" Black History Month Exhibition

Through out my years at The University of the Arts, I have been afforded a great deal of opportunities, and luckily along with my chance to be a community scholar, I was able to assume the position of President of African Diaspora Collective (ADC)  {U'arts Black Student Union}. As president I make it a priority to align our mission with community outreach and programming, especially since Philadelphia has such a large African American community. So naturally I thought that it would be a great idea to intermingle my involvement with ADC with my volunteering at The Red Shield! With that in mind, I reached out to the Vice President of ADC, Nia Benjamin and a small group of active members and we undertook the project of "AMPLIFIED": A Black History Month Exhibition!

The mission of "AMPLIFIED" was to get a group of U'Arts CAMD students to participate in an art exhibition with some of the children at the Red Shield. We wanted to give the children of the Red Shield the opportunity to make art in numerous mediums and have it displayed in a real gallery for everyone to admire! With help from GALLERY ONE president, Sydney Andrews, we were given the privilege of using the GALLERY ONE gallery space! In addition, we were able to sit down with the children and give them prompts to work with to create some of their best art! 

We asked them questions such as; "Who is your hero?", "What are three things you love to do?", "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and the art that was produced was just as broad as the questions! 

It was a lot of fun to get to witness the children use their imaginations and even more enjoyable to see the college students expound on that imagination! 

Below are some of the pictures from the event!