“Service is the rent we pay to be living. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time.”-Marian Wright Edelman
One thing that I am very passionate about is giving back to the community. When I moved to the city, it became even more important to me because I saw a need right outside my door step. I believe serving the community, not necessarily gentrification is the best way to build and improve a neighborhood. It is going to take more than building a new restaurant or renovating buildings and slapping on a new coat of paint. It doesn’t make a difference if it isn’t benefitting the majority of people, not a select few. It’s about building a community…a community of diverse people with various backgrounds with a neighborhood vision of clean and safe streets, great schools and thriving local economy. The conflict arises due to a difference of opinions on what’s the best way to achieve this vision.
When I went to college, I had an understanding that I was going to school to get an education, so I had more opportunities. I also was going to school to bring back the knowledge I received to be a resource, an advocate for my family and my community. Unfortunately though, the more degrees some people receive, the more removed from the community. We forget that someone had to teach us how to look someone in the eye when shaking a person’s hand or to sit in the front of the class to be taken seriously by your teacher. We are leaving many people behind who were not fortunate to have family, friends or some support system to encourage them to do something with their lives. And it wasn’t about becoming rich. The family and community was proud of you for supporting yourself, a family and didn’t break any laws. However, as jobs becomes more scarce and unstable, it is even more important to expose our children to positive images and successful habits. However, parents are spending 3.5 minutes in meaningful conversation with their children compared to the 1,680 minutes per week that the average child is watching television. So who do you think is having more influence over youth? I believe that the home ultimately is responsible for a child. However, I also believe that parents and schools need help. Our involvement or lack of involvement eventually will impact each of our lives.
This is why I was so excited to develop and coordinate the East of the River Career Exposure Camp. As a member of River East Emerging Leaders (r.e.e.l.), I partnered with the Washington D.C. Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (DCNOMA) and the Southeast White House (SEWH) to expose them to careers in math and science. Our mission was to empower youth through the exposure of professional careers while promoting leadership, service and academic excellence for three days. We provided hands-on activities promoting architecture, math, science reading, creativity and critical thinking. Furthermore, we wanted the youth to interact with volunteers who looked like them. All too often, the youth are not interacting with volunteers. Therefore, the only images of successful people of color come from the television instead of their community.
On the first day, I didn’t know what to expect, but I was quite excited. The students were a little subdued, but that was not the case by the end of camp. We started the camp with a history of black architects focusing on buildings in D.C. built by black architects. The students were so excited to know that their neighborhood library, Anacostia Library was built by a black architect. Then, the students learned about primary forms and shapes, drawing software, sustainability in architecture, and sketched drawing types. At the end of the day, students had to apply what they learned by building a jelly bean tower. The tallest and most stable tower won. I am proud to announce the young ladies were the winners! The next day, the students further applied their teachings by designing and building a design model, and giving a presentation. The camp concluded with a visit to the Lego Exhibit at the National Building Museum and to Howard University’s School of Architecture. It was a lot of work, but it was so much fun working with the students. We are already planning for next year. And I have to give a shout-out to the wonderful volunteers who gave their time and knowledge to the students. One of the best moments of the camp occurred when a student was able to identify architectural design concepts and buildings built by black architects. I don’t know if the students will one day move on to become architects. However, the students now know that the option is available and accessible. This is how you improve and build a community…one person at a time.
If you would like to volunteer with youth, I highly recommend the Southeast White House (SEWH). SEWH serves as a refuge, resource center, mentoring center, training group, and gathering place for individuals and groups meeting the needs of Southeast, Washington, D.C. Currently, SEWH is in need of after school tutors from 3:30PM to 7PM. Find out more about SEWH here. Ask for the dynamic Miss Tina who serves the youth. Tell her ThatKellieGirl sent you!
Southeast White House
2909 Pennsylvania Ave SE