My First Week with GGE in Brooklyn

As I woke up on my first morning of work, I stepped out of bed and onto a sharp piece of wood- leaving me with a splinter. Being the hypochondriac that I am, I immediately freaked out that it was going to get infected. After trying to get it out, I headed to the bathroom to find that our toilet was broken. After finally getting dressed and heading outside, I realized that it was pouring rain, and that I was wearing white work pants… I shuffled through the rain to Rite Aid where I bought Neosporin, hydrogen peroxide and Band-Aids. After doing a mini medical procedure at the Rite Aid entrance on my splintered foot, I met up with Sarah and Maya to make our first trek to Brooklyn together. After walking to the wrong subway, we finally found the right train an soared into Brooklyn. Once off the train, I went my separate way from them so that we could each find our perspective offices (it turns out that the three of us are in the same building, we just didn’t know it at the time). After fifteen minutes of wandering the streets of Brooklyn alone, in the rain, with wet white pants, a splintered foot, and a desperate need for a working bathroom, a kind British man finally pointed me in the right direction. Thankfully, we had left well before 9:00am and so I was still 10 minutes early for my first day.

After a somewhat hectic, wet and physically painful morning, I had my orientation with my boss, and my day was immediately turned around. She explained to me the history of GGE and then we began our focus on ULA. I had done some research before arriving here this summer, but after talking to her, I immediately fell in love with the program. I am a psychology major and have a specific interest in both non-profit work, and in healthy physical and psychological adolescent development. After talking with my boss for about 3 hours (although it seemed like 10 minutes), I watched the film “Hey Shorty.” The film is a documentary that explores the heavy prevalence of street harassment in Brooklyn. One of the most interesting scenes for me was seeing two men talk about a woman walking down the street with her arms crossed. They claimed that because her arms were crossed, she thought that she was better than them and so they harassed her- yet in reality, the poor woman was just trying to get from point A to point B and was probably just cold! To be honest, he film truly shocked me, and for about a 30 minute period of time, I convinced myself that for the remainder of the summer, I would not walk anywhere alone, and that I would never walk with my hands crossed in public again… Thankfully, I eventually got over that!

I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to work with GGE and am truly passionate about the work that GGE and ULA does. My favorite things so far have been conducting interviews with ULA students, and sitting in on a Sisters in Strength meeting. I was extremely impressed with the impact that ULA has had on the students that I have interviewed. ULA creates a “safe space” (a term used by almost every student that I interviewed) where young adolescents can communicate about anything, have their opinion heard, learn others’ opinions, and learn new things about anything from social justice issues to arts and basketball. ULA has taught many students how to use their voice, and has helped develop their confidence. Right now, ULA is in 3 schools, and seeing the impact that it has had on the students in these schools is truly remarkable. My internship has started at the same time that ULA meetings and Sisters in Strength meetings are winding down to an end- so I feel very lucky that I have already been able to visit middle school sites and sit in on SIS meetings, because I have definitely learned a massive amount in seeing how these programs actually work.

On Friday we visited Changes (a reproductive health clinic) in Queens, and got to speak with Merle Hoffman and other members of the staff at Changes. While I could easily write a novel about my experience that day, one of the biggest learning experiences for me was the realization that you can run an organization that helps people, and have that organization be a for-profit one. Not only can you do that, but Merle opened my eyes to the fact that there are many advantages in running a for-profit organization. Choices was a beautiful space, with gorgeous paintings on the wall. It did not seem like a hospital- and that is due to the fact that Merle had the money to make the space comforting and beautiful. Overall, I look forward to learning more about the advantages and disadvantages of non-profit and for-profit organizations as I continue my work with GGE!

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