Contributing to the Community

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Vincente Guallpa, SEAS ’20

This summer I decided to contribute to the Philadelphia community. Since I have experience working with youth, I decided to intern at The Rotunda. My role as counselor in The United Block Captains Association enabled me to make a big impact on the local community. From teaching the campers how to play four-square to painting silly faces on paper, I was able to form healthy bonds with all the campers.

One of the memorable experiences was the day we had a face paint activity. After minutes of begging, I finally let the campers paint my face with any color. After all the campers were finished slashing at my face with different colors, I saw myself in the mirror and realized I looked like a mad man.

Here is the breakdown of a typical week. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the camp had different instructors come in to teach the campers arts, crafts, science, and sports. On Wednesdays, we would watch a movie and then go for a long swim at the pool. Part of being a counselor is to engage in every activity and to keep the campers motivated and make sure they are having fun. As I have taught them many new games and fun facts, they have also taught me some cool new things. One camper taught me many different dances from the video game Fortnite. Another camper taught me how to play basketball (yes, I do know how to dribble, but I never played a game with people).

With all the fun we had it is always important to remember why this camp exists. Philadelphia, specifically West Philadelphia, can be tough sometimes. With organized crime and drugs plaguing certain parts of the community, it can be difficult to raise a child in these conditions. Children have unlimited potential, but that can all be diminished if they do not have positive influences in their lives. This is where The United Block Captains Association fills in the role. By providing a safe and engaging environment, children are safe to play with their friends and learn some cool new skills.

The most important skill that I relearned was how to think like the youth. To successfully work with youth you must know how youth think and feel. This helps empathize with them and understand how they process emotions. We must always remember that their emotions matter. Given this, one of the most important questions that I asked each camper is, “How do you feel?” as an invitation to express themselves. When a camper felt down it showed in their behavior. By asking them this question, I was giving them the opportunity to let out some of those emotions through a conversation. This helps to show them how powerful communication is and, more importantly, how to form healthy relationships.

At the end of the day, I am grateful for having been given the opportunity to help my community by working with youth in West Philadelphia and hope to continue serving my community this way.

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