By Gurjinder Singh
I started working with SBU eight months ago in January as a social work intern. I had a marvelous experience tutoring many enthusiastic SBU students that I decided to continue for the summer. Growing up attending New York City Public Schools it never occurred to me how much our education here lacked until I was in the classroom teaching. Having realized that I knew I wanted to work in a school setting to help create social change and education reform.
After two weeks of intense training, I was nervous to be back in a classroom as well as ecstatic to see several of my former tutoring students. This was also the first time I grasped the soccer aspect of the program/organization, which was the reason why I joined. Though, I do not play soccer I do share the same passion for it, as do the students. My favorite aspect was watching the student’s transition from the classroom environment to the soccer field. It was as though I was watching them from a different light; they were comfortable and showed their full competence and passion for the sport. It was pleasing to watch the students practice and play against each other in SBU style World Cup matches. Secretly, non-coaching interns also had their favorite teams. It was heartbreaking when Guam lost. It was quite fascinating to see coaches playing in the matches as well, watching Coach Jamaal frolicking against the younger students like little Cristian.
Off the field, I taught a class called Life Skills. I worked alongside with Samantha Norris, the social worker and with Jessica and Jasmin from Changing the Odds. Together, we worked on a curriculum defining their social standings, and their community. As well as empowering students to start thinking about the transformations they would want to see happen in their communities by articulating themselves and working together.
Students had come up with some motivating project ideas; we had a Violence Prevention Day after they identified violence as an issue in the Bronx. We in addition, had a heartfelt discussion regarding bullying. Another concern they had had to do with loitering and air pollution. As a service project with the high school students, we did a park cleanup with the organization The Bronx is…Blooming. We removed weeds from around trees, aired the soil, and positioned mulch above the soil. Then swiped it clean as well as painted the poles around the park. I did not think the students would find this remotely interesting; nonetheless, they enjoyed getting their hands dirty.
After having developed new and prior relationships with the students and staff, I know I will stay well connected with this organization. SBU as the students call it is a home. SBU is a place where you are family regardless of your background; you do not have to know what an offside is to fit in here. I too feel I am part of this family.
I wish these students the best, which they all deserve.