Community Service: Raven Kaplan-Karlick (2016)

The following essay on community service was written by Raven Kaplan-Karlick, a middle schooler, enrolled in City Congregation’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah program. Students spend a year and a half researching their heritage, values and beliefs, and write on a Jewish subject of their choice, their major project; they also perform 13 hours of community service, and write about it. An example of this component can be seen below. The process improves both the student’s writing and critical thinking skills, as well as their self confidence and overall maturity.

 I often feel like an outsider in social and school situations, and I know how meaningful it has been to me when someone has appeared in my life to help me, whether it’s in physical, emotional, or academic ways. By doing community service, I felt that I was giving back to others. In the winter of 2014, I volunteered at two Open Houses for sixth graders who were considering attending my middle school, ICE, in Manhattan. I spent two hours answering the questions of kids and parents. They asked about the school’s curriculum, programs, and clubs, among many other things. I answered their questions honestly. I wanted to help people to make the right decision about whether ICE was the right school for them. I would love to see other students benefit from the nurturing and stimulating environment that ICE offers. In spring, 2015, I was a volunteer for the National Association for Mental Illnesses’ 5K Walk on the Brooklyn Bridge. This organization means a lot to my family. My mother works for the New York City Mental Health Association. She has devoted her working life to helping the mentally ill. I wanted to do my part to help her and others in her field, as well as to help to raise money for people living with mental illness. My “job” was working in a booth, handing out goody bags and shirts to people who donated $1,000 or more. The goody bags consisted of candy bars, wands, and crowns. Many organizations contributed money, including CBS TV and Local 1199, the Drug and Hospital Workers Union. It was exciting to see Chirlane McCray, the wife of Mayor DiBlasio, speak about donating money in order to provide “more options for people.” It was freezing cold that day, but I felt so happy that I didn’t care. My third act of community service was volunteering in August, 2015 as an Art Assistant at White Bird Theater Productions. White Bird is a theater day camp in Brooklyn. I love performing, and I plan to be an actress when I’m older. Along with two counselors and two other assistants, I worked for a week with kids in Kindergarten – Second Grade. I contributed to creating a Keith Haring-inspired backdrop for the children’s performances. I drew and outlined figures, cut and pasted, and worked really hard to put together a whimsical backdrop to inspire the kids as they performed. I loved working with young kids who were trying to figure out if they want to pursue theater. I wanted to show them what theater is really about, the nuts and bolts behind the scenes. I liked showing them the hard work and focus that goes into every aspect of theater. Working at White Bird was the most meaningful of my community service experiences because I “grew up” at White Bird. I started attending White Bird when I was in second grade. It was there that I realized I love to act, and that I want to act for the rest of my life. White Bird has become a true “home” for me. Being able to give back to the adorable kids who sang original songs about ants who love donuts, among other weird things, was very rewarding for me. My three acts of community service have been great experiences for me. I intend to continue to help others throughout my life.