I cannot pinpoint exactly one moment that made me realize how happy I was to intern with South Bronx United this summer. Instead, I can describe small snapshots of memories from various times over the six weeks, which can hopefully start to piece together what made my summer so special and worthwhile. I remember my commute, which I spent singing (screaming) along to music while sitting in traffic at 8 in the morning. I remember the high-pitched screeches as the interns would move our desks and chairs into a circle (the shape we would remain in during our training). I remember how the silence of strangers turned into the laughter shared by friends as a result of playing endless name games, practicing teaching techniques, and learning from one another. Most importantly, I remember how welcomed I felt.
I learned the student’s names and forgot their names. I lost important papers and found important papers. I finished class too early and also ended class too late. I followed lesson plans and strayed away from lesson plans. I would feel prepared and unprepared at the same time. I later came to understand that these inconsistencies were what defined teaching and made it worthwhile, something I could not learn in my college classroom.
I remember how happy my students were when they’d answer a trivia question right during homeroom. I remember the way a debate about censorship turned into a twenty-minute discussion about the rapper Drake and, more broadly, the music industry. How amazing it was to see their faces light up with passion, and to watch how they’d react and argue for or against opinions that weren’t their own. I remember one subway ride on our way to New York Law School where I watched my kids unbutton and re-button their work- appropriate clothes. “Jackie take a picture of us in front of the New York Law School sign!” they would exclaim over and over again. I was able to watch my students grow into miniature adults and discover their interest in the law. I remember how brutal it was stepping out onto the soccer field in the hot summer sun. Although, playing soccer in the rain was definitely a bonus, and something I can now check off my bucket list. Nothing was as rewarding as joining the kids in playing the game that they loved.
As we were on the bus home from Six Flags on the last day, I found myself secretly smiling each time we got stuck behind traffic and appreciating every last minute I had with this program and all of the incredible people I’d met. I couldn’t imagine a day without seeing these kids I had grown so close to. I have never met a group that was so driven, intelligent, and thoughtful. I’m so happy and grateful to have been a part of this program, and to have contributed to the transformation and growth of these kind and talented kids. Teaching and working with them taught me how to be more patient and open-minded. I helped them, and they helped me: a beautiful exchange.
I walked into the summer not yet a junior in college, lost, and with very little direction. Now, thanks to South Bronx United, I know exactly what I want to do and exactly where I want to be. I admire and respect all of the people who work so hard every day at SBU. They believe in their students and know that with hard work and perseverance those students can achieve great things. I hope to one day join a community similar to SBU and work to enhance social change through education.
(Jackie Aboulafia was an intern for SBU over the summer of 2015. She is currently a junior at Union College.)