This summer working at Harlem Grown was a very enjoyable experience for me. My internship ended on August 20th, and since then I have had time to reflect on what I gained from this experience. Working this summer being able to share scientific knowledge and fun with an energetic and engaged group of children has been a pleasure. I learned a lot about communicating information in ways that can be well received by a younger group of people. I also learned a lot about educating in New York City. Something that Harlem Grown’s founder Tony told all of the staff at the beginning of the summer was that the kids are in charge of their summer camp experience. The camp is free for families in the area, and a majority of the children we work with are coming from high needs situations. He also told us that he wanted this summer camp to be a place where campers were allowed to express themselves, and have their thoughts and ideas heard.
Something that I reflected on often during my time working with Harlem Grown was that all of the younger kids that I worked with on a daily basis were incredibly intelligent. They were always answering the questions we posed about farming, science, and art. They were well versed in history and strong readers as I realized going to different museums and libraries with them throughout the summer. These children were all smart and very capable. Another thing that Tony told us about the mission of Harlem Grown was that he wanted that intelligence and optimistic attitude towards learning to always continue even after summer camp was over. Through hearing him talk about some of the challenges campers and their families faced, I was even more dedicated to making sure that they felt like camp was a place where they felt that their voices and opinions were being heard, and where we cared about how they were feeling.
Having this experience made me realize as well a few goals of my own. In the past year, I became much more well read and informed on issues involving economic segregation and the connection to educational opportunity. In one of my courses, I wrote a research paper on school zoning in New York City and the divide in educational opportunity it creates between students of different incomes. This led me to have an interest in pursuing education and understanding more about ways to make educational opportunity the same for all students, regardless of outside circumstances. This internship allowed me to gain knowledge of teaching to students and the impact of educators on students, while also allowing me to encourage students to enjoy STEM activities. This combined my passions for education and science and allowed me to learn and grow in my methods of interacting, teaching, and taking care of campers.
Overall, I am very thankful to have had this opportunity. I hope that this internship is the first of many experiences I will have with teaching, working with children, and experiencing the impact of non-profit organizations. I got the opportunity to work with both an incredible staff and amazing campers this summer, and the impact of this experience will never be lost.