Kathleen Halley-Segal, Grade 9, Staff Writer
As every aspect of students' lives turns online, soup kitchens and nursing homes are left abandoned. This begs the question, how can students help their communities during a pandemic? Non-profit organizations must change the ways they operate, pushing volunteers to find innovative and safe ways to support their neighborhoods.
Community Service Club: Letters of Love and Care Packages
Sadly, this year, the High School of American Studies Community Service Club has been unable to carry out its yearly community service projects, such as working with a local soup kitchen, Part of the Solution (POTS), and running food drives to donate to the Lehman College food bank. However, the community service team has been doing great work in their own homes despite Covid-19 restrictions. One of their first initiatives was writing encouraging letters to senior citizens through the organization Letters of Love. The club is also hoping to create care packages for essential workers in the new year. “It has been hard to find ways to give back virtually besides asking people for money, so we have been focusing on ways to help each other while we figure out the logistics of getting back into volunteering somewhat in person,” said Marissa Edelstein, a senior.
Distance Volunteering In the Boy Scouts
Amidst the pandemic, many organizations have become entirely virtual, but some volunteers are still doing socially distanced work in person. Luke Hoppa, a freshman at HSAS, participates in Boy Scouts volunteering, which was once working in soup kitchens but has been replaced with painting fences. Even though he wishes he could form connections with the people in his community, he has found new pleasures, like finding hidden treasure in the trash he collects at the park. Although Hoppa believes he learned more from Boy Scouts prior to the pandemic, he still enjoys helping out his community through his new volunteering work.
Adopt A Neighbor
Just like HSAS classes, tutoring outside of school has shifted online. Ethan Lader, a freshman at HSAS, signed up for the tutoring program, Adopt a Neighbor. The program finds high schoolers and connects them with elementary and middle schoolers according to subjects they struggle with. “I decided to volunteer since I know a lot of people are struggling academically throughout Corona and that tutoring help is more important now than ever,” said Lader.
North Carolina Democratic Party
Jolie Futterman, a freshman at HSAS, volunteered to register voters in North Carolina during the 2020 presidential election. Futterman made calls to North Carolina voters asking which candidate they planned to endorse and if they knew how and where to vote. She also put together documents listing what each candidate had done that day. Contrary to many other students, Futterman believed that the pandemic made this experience more achievable. “[This was] something I wouldn’t have been able to do before the pandemic or mainly just wouldn’t have had time to do,” said Futterman. She felt very happy with her experience helping the North Carolina Democratic Party and feels she learned a lot.
Although the pandemic can feel debilitating in many ways, new opportunities can arise to help individuals who are struggling at home. Organizations all over New York and students at the High School of American Studies are finding ways to support their community while abiding by social distancing guidelines.