Endings, Beginnings and In Between

We have sadly arrived at the end of summer. Usually I find that the end of July and beginning of August is accompanied by a certain feeling of sadness and excitement. We hangout with friends late at night, knowing that our weeknight soirees will soon come to an end; but it’s all well and good because we’ll be spending our days together back at school. I also find great satisfaction in the purchasing of clean notebooks and fresh pens which I determine to be the keys to my success in the new school year.

But this year is so different for so many reasons. For one, I’ve never “gone back” to college. Last summer held the hope of a fresh start and new beginnings as I ventured into my college career. This year, however, does not have the same shiny effect. There are no new bedspreads or packing cubes, but rather pre-packed suitcases to be hauled up from the basement storage. In addition, registering for classes has become more stress-inducing than exciting. And then there’s the obvious factor of the world’s current situations. It’s odd for summer to come to an end when it never really felt like it started at all. Finals bled into the height of quarantine lockdowns bled into my internship bled into move-in…and here we are, about to start a new semester. I was never fully able to distinguish summertime from quarantine, or as people like to call it these days, “the new normal.” 

However, as I reminisce on my summer in New York City that never was, I feel so grateful for the experiences I’ve had. It was incredibly empowering to collaborate with a community organization that was working at the “front lines” of the New York City COVID-19 outbreak as it unfolded in front of me on the news. By sponsoring weekly food giveaways, providing daily childcare and education services, and promoting the Black Lives Matter movement and the work of young activists, the work of The Lower Eastside Girls Club is absolutely essential during this time.

Despite my physical distance from the Girls Club, I still had the ability to contribute to their efforts and interact with and learn more about the community of the Lower Eastside. One task that combined both of these facets was assisting in the creation of the COVID-19 policy and protocol as the building opened up for summer programming. This task was highly specific to this moment in history, and it required me to consider all of the challenges that the Girls Club might face during in-person programming. Girls might not have their own masks or thermometers to take their temperature at home. On the flip side, many Girls Club staff didn’t feel comfortable taking temperatures or tracking symptoms without medical professionals or training. While creating the protocols, we researched other NYC business’s COVID-19 practices as well as other summer camps and schools. At the same time, CDC and state government guidelines were changing every day. 

Working in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis required all of us to be flexible and alert to the ever-changing COVID policies and media narrative. It also forced me to improve upon my digital communication skills. For better or for worse, email and Zoom will largely be our methods of communication for the foreseeable future and by participating in a remote internship, I gained experience in working in a new-age professional environment.

The other large deliverable of my internship involved planning and leading a four-week virtual seminar series for a group of high schoolers called the New Girl City: Agents of Change Virtual Seminar Series. Our seminars focused on current issues such as police reform and the #CancelRent movement and we featured female leaders from each of these movements. At the end of the four weeks, our Agents of Change were tasked with creating a social media campaign about each of our topics and presenting them as a takeover on the Girls Club’s Instagram and Twitter platforms. This past week, the participants launched their social media takeovers. Even though my internship ended, I followed along on Instagram. The work they produced was incredible and it came together so professionally and well thought-out on the social media platforms. Seeing the fully finished outcome of my project was definitely the most rewarding experience of the program.

Of course I was disappointed that I wasn’t physically in New York this summer. However, I didn’t have to be there to make meaningful contributions to the work of the Lower Eastside Girls Club. The combination of our Moxie readings, my hands-on opportunities, and my weekly reflections brought my attention to many critical community and women’s issues I hadn’t considered before. I was especially interested in our conversations around the restorative justice movement and how reforming the criminal justice system can impact the greater community. As a pre-health student interested in women and children’s health, I have begun to learn more about the ways in which the healthcare system interacts with policy and I hope to continue to grow in my understanding.

Finally, I will leave you with my greatest take-away from this summer. During one of our Moxie seminars, our program director, Ada Gregory, wisely stated that impact matters more than intention. This applies to institutions, non-profits, policies, and individuals, alike. Entering my sophomore year of college, I want to keep this in mind as a club leader, classmate, and community member.