Hometown: Elmwood Park, Illinois
Minor: Poverty and Human Capabilities
Why did you apply for this particular internship? I applied for the internship in Richmond at the Peter Paul Development Center (PPDC) to be able to get a look at what an academic summer program is like in an impoverished urban area of Richmond. I wanted to get to see what kinds of programming works for helping kids in this environment to succeed socially, emotionally and cognitively. Children are also a lot of fun to be around, so I thought spending a summer working with them would be great, and it was!
How did your work apply to your studies at W&L? There are universal problems of depression of the human spirit wherever poverty lurks, but those that prevent a child from prospering and having a thirst for knowledge are the most dangerous. It was not by chance or destiny that I ended up at W&L. There were paths that led me there set up by society, the upbringing I received, and my own interest in my studies and the desire to continue those studies. But the world of higher education is not an open door to many people. That fact troubles me because it makes me think of a sickly society in which the desire to learn dies within the often times test score-driven and underfunded public education system. In the coming two years as I am busy going to and from Newcomb Hall, this internship will remind me that it takes all kinds of people to make the world go around, but the best people are the ones who care about someone besides themselves. With my education I am in a position to do good for others, so I better make sure that I do not waste those opportunities.
What was the most unexpected aspect of your Shepherd Alliance experience? The most unexpected outcome of my Shepherd Alliance experience is that I have become attached to the place that I have been working. I knew that I would gain professional relationships as an intern, but I have also made friends with the students and the staff of the center. The people at Peter Paul have shown me immense kindness, and I greatly appreciate it. The summer has been long, but it is also has been extremely rewarding in terms of the relationships that have been built and the experiences that I have gained.
Post-Graduation Plans: Archaeology to Education or some combination thereof.
Favorite W&L Memory: Pi Phi Formals!
Favorite Class: Anthropology of American History with Professor Bell
Favorite W&L Event: Nabors Service Days
Favorite Campus Landmark: The Lee House
Why did you choose W&L: If the Shenandoah Valley location does not enchant you right away, then the school also offers a beautiful and historic campus, an amazing student-body, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, and a liberal arts education.
Why did you choose your major? I have been very interested in archaeology since I was a little kid, and so majoring in Anthropology was something I knew I wanted to do before even arriving on campus. Since getting to campus, I have found staff and faculty in the Anthropology and Sociology Departments that I am grateful to get to learn from.
What professor has inspired you? I have only had one class with this professor and it was during my first year; but Culture and Poverty with Professor Eastwood raised my standards regarding hard work and changed my ideas about what it means to be dedicated to a subject matter.
Advice for prospective or first-year students? Don't do everything because no one can do everything, but don't be afraid to try new things. What you can do is anything and that is a pretty awesome idea. You will also meet some of the coolest people in some of the most unexpected places when you put yourself out there.
What do you wish you'd known before you came to campus? I wish I had realized that campus is basically a series of hills and you will walk uphill and downhill in both directions of your route no matter what so dress your feet accordingly.
This summer I worked with second grade to middle school-aged kids, which means that each day was different. The Peter Paul Development Center (PPDC), or "The Center," was created in 1979 by John Coleman Jr. when he observed the need for a safe place for the youth of Richmond's East End neighborhood to find community. PPDC is located on 22nd Street between the streets of X and W, in a neighborhood that is known for drugs and violence. The East End of Richmond is also infamous for its multiple public housing communities. Four of the largest of these communities in Richmond include Fairfield Court, Creighton Court, Mosby Court and Whitcomb Court, all of which are within a one-mile radius of PPDC. Some of the challenges that the youth of the Church Hill neighborhood face include unsafe housing and a poor public school education. But PPDC is a safe haven where constructive learning is created. As soon as you walk through the door you can tell you are in a good place because it is obvious that the faculty works tirelessly to offer the kids the best programming that they can give them. The Center's facilities include two buildings--one that holds four of the classrooms, the lunchroom and the gymnasium/auditorium, and a converted house next door that holds one more classroom and the library. When The Center first opened its doors, it was housed in St. Peters Episcopal Church across the street. PPDC is still affiliated with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, but it has been in its new facility since 2007.
A day at the PPDC starts with the kids being picked up and brought to The Center on buses by one of The Center's hardworking drivers. Classes begin between 8:30 to 9:00, as all of the kids arrive. Depending on the grade, the students' days will include different lessons on math and reading, outdoor play and a field trip or lesson on the special theme for that week. Each week that the summer institute was in session I was assigned to a different classroom and helped out with the projects and keeping kids on task. During the "Great Outdoors" themed week I did some lesson-planning and teaching for the third and fourth graders. Each class has an average of ten to eleven students. We worked with lima beans to discuss and learn about where plants come from. In the third grade class we actually planted some of the lima beans in cups of dirt, and as the weeks went by, to my surprise, big vines began to grow. That week we also made leaf prints using leaves that we collected off of the plants surrounding the playground. The kids picked up their own leaves, and we talked about the structure of a leaf and how they absorb sunlight and carbon dioxide for the plants. Then we used finger paint to make prints of the leaves and see all of the details of the veins. I really enjoyed getting to work with the kids in these types of settings, because we were able to explore part of our world that is usually right under our noses but is still very interesting. The kids also get to go on field trips, typically on Wednesdays or Fridays, including some really cool trips that I wish I had gotten to go on when I was their age. We went to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, St. John's Episcopal Church for Colonial Camp, and they even went on a tree-climbing trip!
The kids are taken care of not only in their classrooms and with fun extracurricular experiences, but through hot, nutritious meals and snacks and safe rides to and from The Center every day. The Center's chef is an expert Food Bank shopper, and she coordinates meals five days a week for all the hungry kids and teachers--all while being an extremely kind and fun person. The bus drivers are great caretakers, and they are very concerned with the children's safety and well-being when they are being taken places. The extent of the care and time committed to the nurturing and enrichment of the kids at PPDC is extraordinary, and it is given from every member of The Center's community.
The closest experience I had to actually being a teacher was the two days when I was given responsibility for the second grade while their teacher was at a conference. Because The Center is its own non-profit organization, they do not have the resources to just call up a substitute teacher like a public school would. So they have to have their own networks of possible substitutes or a new intern to put in charge of the 11 or 12 adorable 7- to 8-year-olds in the second grade. The second grade is a really precious group of kids that I very much enjoyed working with, especially when I saw the structure of their Peter Paul Day. Not only do the kids talk about the lesson for the day, like how to tell time, but they encourage each other when they get the answer right, and help each other to learn how to jump rope. I am really grateful for the chance to lead the second grade class.
The PPDC has given me an invaluable experience as a part of a group of people that care for each other, hold each other accountable for kindness and good behavior, and help each other to learn and grow every day--even if it is not always easy to do. I miss The Center a lot and hope to be able to go back to visit soon--and I will be staying in touch with all of the great people and students there!