Being present is an incredible thing. Being present among children is more important. Sometimes you will find yourself getting lost in your routine and wonder how you might adjust to be more invested in the environment around you. I have found that the best way to be present is to spend time with children, ‘the minds of tomorrow’ as the grown ups like to call them. However, it is not as easy to actually be present as it is to say you will be, especially among kids. You have to prove to yourself and to them that the time you are spending with them is valuable. They have to know that you are invested in them, invested in their personal growth, separate from school. You cannot simply just exist in their space, you need to add something, make an impact whether it be small or large.
I have faced challenges with this notion, often I feel as though I am not adding to the environment, that I am not making a connection with them, but that is not true. Maybe it is the fact that I am out of my comfort zone with older children or maybe it is because I am underestimating my contribution. The kids I am working with at the Paraclete are much older than I am used to but that is only a hurdle, it is not my Goliath. I find that older kids are more in tune with who they want to be, or, rather what they want to do with their time. They are free, independent thinkers, they have autonomy over their minds and bodies. They make their own decisions and pursue their interests with vigor. Frankly they scare me, but I firmly believe that this is a good, motivating feeling. This observation forces me want to make an impact, I want to add something good to their days and to the program that enriches their after-school time. I am hell-bent on contributing to the functionality and impact that Paraclete has on the community. I will be present for the few months that I am here. I will be helping in improving someone’s day, because that is what we all need. We all need that little bit of light to make your day better, your week, your month that much better. I want the kids at Paraclete to look back at their time here with fondness, whether that be because of something I did or something that the program did for them as a whole. It is the knowing that one day these leaders, the minds of tomorrow, the people who will change the world that have crossed my path, will look back and ponder the importance of a program like Paraclete.
Paraclete is dedicated to South Boston youth. Although this statement is simple, it reflects the straightforward nature of the program and the undying loyalty to the children of this community. Ultimately the mission of Paraclete is to provide an educational, moral, and creative outlet for the students of “Southie” (as the locals call it). The teachers here help the kids here with homework, they work to stimulate the kids with other projects based in ELA and Math aligned with the Boston Public School Curriculum. They work to create a space for students to learn new things through enrichment classes, they give tutoring and they give students access to resources around the greater Boston area. The Ameri-Corps teachers and Boston College interns are working to provide a space for the program attendees to build their knowledge and add layers to their person. Every adult that comes through the door is committed to offering the students here with opportunities to expand their horizons, to offer them with individualized homework help, projects and game-based activities. The Paraclete is an integral part of this community, it has a large footprint in South Boston and has touched the lives of many children who have gone on to do bigger and better things throughout the world.
Being a member of this community has taught me many things, but most importantly it has reminded me that working with children is the highest calling. As an educator you have the authority to provide knowledge and entertainment to the youth. You have the ability to create a space where people will feel safe, heard and taken seriously. You as an educator are the link to the real world for many children, you help them form their morals, form their opinions, you aid them in finding their voice. The Paraclete is exactly that for the students of South Boston. It is a place where they can hear how loud their voices ring in their community. They get to see what they can do with the knowledge in their brains, Paraclete is merely a stepping stone to greatness for these kids. Just being a part of someplace like this is incredible to say the least.
When I first thought of working for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the idea seemed daunting. Washington D.C. in general seems daunting, working with people I have never met before is daunting, living with people I have only briefly met before seems daunting. I could only really imagine what would come forward for my very first co-op. My employers proceeded to tell me that I would be splitting my time 50/50 between the two of them. One is an Antioch Alumn, Marc Mazurovsky who focuses on Art Restitution and making a database in order to consolidate all the information out there and make it as accessible to the public as possible, in order to educate and help those Jewish families who have yet to see their losses accounted for. My other employer is the Oral History Collections Manager, Noemi Szekely-Popescu, she works with a plethora of people internationally in order to collect and record people’s stories from World War Two, specifically those that involve the Holocaust.
“Never Again.” That is the mission statement that encompasses the purpose of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. When you walk through each instalment in the museum, “Never Again” is plastered all over the building, it is wired into the very foundations of the beams that hold it up. Most of the work that I have been doing has been to work towards making information known to my superiors, which in turn would make it the information available to the general public. This access to knowledge embodies the entire missions statement, because knowledge is power. If one learns from their mistakes as well as other incredibly unfortunate events, such as the Holocaust , one would hope that it would never happen again. However, despite the hopeful undertones of “Never Again”, the museum has made an effort to consider the repetitions of genocide that have happened across the world. Currently, there is an exhibit on the genocide in Syria.
I have done many things here at USHMM, but most notably, I have started clean-up work for the ERR project, which is the previously mentioned database that Marc Mazurovsky helped formulate (https://www.errproject.org/jeudepaume/). And I am about to finish a project consisting of translating Italian Government documents pertaining to a group of Jewish refugees during World War Two. I have also been in contact with, what we like to call witnesses, those who saw the atrocities committed by the Nazis but were not all the way involved.
While in DC, I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah Weddington, the woman who fought Roe v. Wade, the landmark SCOTUS case. I have also walked through the National Gallery of Art and looked for all the art that the Nazis stole during World War Two. This excursion was particularly eventful, as I was going through the museum, looking for the titles that were on the list of names I got from previous research. I was proud! I wanted to share what I was doing, thinking that the employees of the NGA would know the provenance of the paintings housed between those walls. I approached one of the monitors/guards in the room I was in and I told him I was looking for the looted art. . the man suddenly got a very offended look on his face, as if I just accused him of looting the art.
I look forward to seeing what else DC has to offer!