Community Action Award Recipients 2018

CCE Community Action Award recipients receive financial support to engage with communities in unpaid or underpaid internships in communities at home and across the globe. Read about three award recipients and their experiences this summer.

My name is Chase Williams and I’m a rising senior at Bard. I’ve always imagined experiencing the life of a lawyer or judge. I enjoy the way in which the law looks at a new case and works to instill consistent protocols in all circumstances.  This summer I was an intern at the Oklahoma City Federal Western District Court under the Honorable Magistrate Judge Suzanne Mitchell. As part of the internship, I spent hours attending public trials, reading through appellate briefings, and coordinating legal functions and gatherings. I also attended a banquet about the Royal v. Murphy trial, where questions of jurisdiction and land ownership submerged Oklahomans and Native Americans in a legal feud. My internship culminated with attendance at a naturalization ceremony where members of many nationalities came together to become legally recognized citizens of the United States of America.

My name is Nadia Russell and I am a rising junior studying biology and global public health. I interned at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, where I served as a field coordinator for a project called MapsCorps that maps underserved neighborhoods. The value of mapping community assets is to connect them to community health. I must say it has been an amazing, yet very challenging, experience. My expectations were really high, which was probably a dangerous position from which to begin. Non-profits, after all, often are overworked and understaffed and I had to adapt my expectations and goals in order to be at peace with my work. Working with the high schoolers I mentored was truly amazing. I had a team of four, and they were all 16 and going into their junior year of high school. Our dynamic was awesome and I was really lucky to be partnered with the students.

I was especially proud of the mini “research project” that our mappers did. We focused on knowledge of HIV prevention and care among black and Latinx women in the South Bronx. We dedicated one work day to surveying South Bronx residents about their knowledge of PrEP (a pill that can be taken to stay HIV negative even despite potential exposures) and PEP (a pill that can be taken up to 36 hours after an exposure to drastically reduce the chances of contracting HIV). As college students, we were well aware that our results were not likely to be statistically significant, but as my public health professor at Bard, Helen Epstein taught me, obsession with statistical significance when you can see a phenomenon right in front of your eyes is a big obstacle to getting things done in the public health field.

By and large, this internship taught me patience, and that progress is incremental. Having big goals is important, getting frustrated is normal, and progress isn’t always linear or easily visible. In some ways the work I did feels like a tiny drop in the bucket. In other ways, I feel as though I positively impacted the lives of teenagers, exposed many teenagers to the concepts of public health and how community assets impact the health of its residents, did a small but important bit of advocacy, and met a lot of fantastic people. This internship also exposed me to many of the challenges that the public health field faces. Ultimately I have been made a better, more informed person for participating in this project, and I look forward to exploring more ways in which I can incorporate public health into my career.

Dylan Ahunhodjaev ‘20, spent the summer as an intern at the Bard High School Early College Manhattan Summerbridge Program.

Is there anything more stressful than being thirteen years old? Sure, adulthood is hard: emails need to be answered, bills need to be paid, pointless-seeming boxes need to be checked on endlessly regenerative to-do lists. The mundanity of it all tends to accumulate and harden into a near-constant state of stress. It sucks, but by 21, you sort of get the drill. Sort of.

To be 13 and entering high school for the first time is to have no notion of the drill, or of yourself, or how you will respond when these two things inevitably collide. To be 13 is to have a fluid, rapidly changing identity as the challenges and expectations of life grow more severe and less avoidable. To be 13 is to stand, Janus-faced, between the sunny world of childhood and the steely glint–sometimes menacing, sometimes inviting–of the mysterious realm of teens and being teenaged. Plus, there’s a ton more homework and stuff. It’s an existence I, personally,  would not visit on my worst enemy.

Which is why I give all available props to BHSEC Manhattan for their Summerbridge program, which guides matriculating students from statistically underperforming middle schools through a typical day at their new school. They get to meet some of their teachers, participate in some fun (or at least fun-adjacent) activities, andeat some pizza. I spent the day guiding one group of these kids from classroom to classroom, and we finished up by playing in a drum circle. I learned so much about proper djembe technique in that short session, it made me want to go back to high school and join the percussion club I used to make such merciless fun of back in the day. Being a teenager suddenly didn’t seem all that bad, knowing you could always whack a drum really hard.

Of course, the responsibilities of a good school extend beyond showing its students a good time, and making things easy on them as they fumble and grope through their formative years. Nothing about BHSEC, even in its off-season, made me think it was an easy ride, but opportunities for self-exploration and cultivation seemed to be well within reach for its students. I think that these opportunities are invaluable, and I hope that in my time at BHSEC Manhattan I was able to facilitate, in some small way, somebody’s flourishing in the coming school year.

These are a few of the 50 CCE Community Action Award recipients this year. Stay tuned for more blog posts. 

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