PBHA

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It has been WAY too long.  Some of you may have been wondering where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing.  My answers to these questions are, “I don’t know, and EVERYTHING!”

So to catch you up from the beginning:

Last time I posted, I talked about joining the Officer team at the Phillip Brooks House Association – a student-led 501c3 nonprofit based on Harvard’s campus that supports more than 85 programs, 1,400 student volunteers, and 10,000 low income people in the Boston area.  Since then, I have come to know a team of twenty amazing individuals who are devoted to public service and making the world a better place.  I have learned from their ideas, their passions, their anxieties, and even after only three months, I feel that I have come to know and trust these people explicitly.  The other thing I can honestly say about PBHA – I have learned more in my three months as an Officer than I have in my entire time at Harvard.  Not that classes here aren’t amazing or anything, but if you read on you’ll see what I am saying.

Over January break, we all came back a week early to go through NPMI (Non-Profit Management Intensive), where we learned about everything from budgeting to meeting facilitation, from student development to strategic management.  To say this was a crash course would be an understatement.  This week culminated in a final Officers Retreat we took in Maine, where we were greeted with plenty of snow, plenty of hot chocolate, plenty of Apples to Apples, and plenty of meetings.

Me in a PBHA van in Maine! photo cred: Alan Silva

At the same time we were putting our new found skills to the test by planning Cabinet Retreat – a meeting off campus with all of the directors of the 85 different programs for an entire day.  This is the largest thing I have ever organized.  It also involved me writing my first ever training, leading my first ever training on Volunteer Management, speaking perhaps in front of one of largest audiences I have ever spoken in front of, and writing the largest check I have ever written for the rental of the space: Hibernian Hall.

But the day finally came on January 28th when we bussed everyone over to Dorchester, and it went GREAT!  Better than great, in fact.  The facility was everything we had hoped and more, our fledgling Officer team put its heart and soul into making sure everything ran smoothly, and the feedback from directors was overwhelmingly positive.  This was by far my proudest moment since stepping onto Harvard’s campus a year and a half ago.

 

A picture I snapped on my phone of Cabinet Retreat!

But with that accomplishment behind us, we now faced the obstacle of scheduling.  As I have said before in one of my blog posts, scheduling at Harvard is a nightmare.  Even friends are forced to stop each other on the sidewalk and write in dining hall meet-ups into their phone calendars.  So to try to schedule three major meetings a week (two of which I lead with my co-chair Winnie) was soooooo stressful.  In the end we got it down, and let me say, leading multiple two-hour meetings a week teaches you a thing or two about flip charts, agendas, and organization.

Since January, our team has done so much and led so many tough conversations – we have organized another Cabinet meeting and we have our third one this Thursday night, we have talked the need for Programmatic Quality Standards, and Director Accountability, we have organized Director-Officer Teams (or DOTs) to grab dinner together and create more community among volunteers, and we are in the process of creating a new database and hiring a new Deputy Director.

In short, PBHA has taken over my life – but in so many positive ways!  I can think of nothing I would rather devote my time to, and I feel so blessed to be surrounded by so many great people who are devoted to such a great purpose.

Other things I have been doing include serving as New Member Director for my sorority on campus – Kappa Alpha Theta!  We run our Recruitment process at the beginning of second semester, and it was so much fun to meet so many awesome girls and bond with the other women in my sorority.  Our very own blogger Jeanie is in Theta with me, so we were sure to take a picture for you guys!

Jeanie and me during one of our rounds of recruitment!

Since Recruitment, I have been leading meetings for the new members to introduce them to Theta!  It has been amazing (and yes, I have brought my PBHA meeting facilitation skills, flip charts and all, with me to Theta meetings).

The final big activity I am doing on campus is serving as a Fundraising Director for Harvard University Women in Business.  So far this semester, we have devoted our fundraising efforts toward the New York Trip that we sponsor every year for Harvard women to visit some of NYC’s top companies.  Soon, we will be switching gears to the effort I am directing – Intercollegiate Business Convention fundraising.  IBC is a HUGE conference HUWIB hosts every fall for women’s business organizations from colleges across the country.  I will be sure to write more about it in the future, when my blog post isn’t so long 😛

Finally, I am still volunteering for my original PBHA program, Elderly 1-2-1, and of course, I am still a student at Harvard taking classes (though it sometimes doesn’t feel like it)!  This semester, I decided to take only three classes – History 97, which is my sophomore tutorial, History 1433: American Populism, which traces American history through a Populist lens, and Economics 1010b: Macroeconomics.

Oh, and before I forget, other great news this semester – I moved into a single (pictures to come when my room isn’t quite so messy)!

That’s all folks!  And don’t worry, I will be posting regularly from now on, so check back!  I’ll leave you with a picture from my spring break at home in Pittsburgh!

Me at Fort Duquesne in Point State Park, Pittsburgh

 

 

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During this week, the majority of Harvard students are on Spring Break; but I’m a rebel so I’m on Alternative Spring Break (ASB).

Making it big on the front cover

The Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) sponsors a handful of trips during Spring Break that offer a harmonious combination of F U N and productivity. As a freshman last year, I participated in the New York City (NYC) trip and a week with upperclassmen premedical students visiting medical schools was enough to catalyze my decision to pursue the medical path. Last year’s Spring Break was so meaningful to me that I was quite determined to return as a director of the trip. I’ve spent a large portion of my sophomore year co-directing and organizing the trip which makes this Spring Break extremely rewarding.

Although the week is only half over, I feel like we’ve accomplished so much! Ten other premedical students and I have been conquering NYC by storm – volunteering with nonprofit organizations and visiting medical schools.

We’re working with God’s Love We Deliver (GLWD), an altruistic organization that preps and delivers love-infused, nutritious meals to the ill around the New York (and New Jersey!) area. Approximately 4,200 meals go out everyday which constantly shocks the whole group because the organization is able to accomplish their lofty goals with such limited volunteers! We’ve already volunteered with multiple aspects of their organization, whether that’s in the kitchen, delivering food, or handling paperwork. Their friendly and benevolent staff definitely foster a great atmosphere to work in!

Sanitation first!

The other volunteers are always interesting to interact with since GLWD has a relatively smaller reputation so most of their volunteers have a personal connection with the organization. Today was a special day at GLWD, however, that sparked our New York City celebrity streak! We got to meet the humble Jamar Rogers, a contestant on NBC’s hit show The Voice, who was so kind and happy to return to his GLWD community.

Star struck squared (#alliterationwin)

Speaking of celebrities, in the midst of one of our GLWD shifts, we received word that Jeremy Lin was eating lunch right down the street! In a frenzied teenage girl panic, I raced to the restaurant to stare at the back of his head as he ate lunch and managed to snap:

Everyone on this trip is so thankful that GLWD allowed us to help out, even if it’s just for the week! We’ve learned and realized so much through volunteering at this organization. Typically premedical students are focused on immersing themselves in a hospital environment to expose ourselves to the environment we strive to succeed in. Yet, working at GLWD proved to be a refreshing experience as it enlightened us with a refined definition of health – letting us perceive it from a unique perspective. Most of us crave medical school with the end goal that we’ll be able to provide a better lifestyle through personal interactions with our patients. GLWD is exactly this, but in the context of the kitchen rather than the resplendent luminance of a hospital. Concomitant to this realization comes a stirring sense of excitement for our academic future!

Our futures have become more tangible through connections with recent Harvard alumni who have generously offered to give us tours of their respective NYC medical schools.

Two Harvard College alumni met us on Madison Avenue for an informal tour and Q&A of Mt. Sinai Medical School. Although we were initially disappointed that Admission Officers respectfully declined our request for an official meeting, it was a great advantage, in retrospect, to have Harvard alumni show us around and speak in Harvard acronyms like “proctor” (resident adviser) and “section” (small group discussion sections outside of lecture) as well as tell us what they specifically did in their undergraduates years that they found most helpful/applicable in graduate school.

The Annenberg of Mt. Sinai (not limited to freshman nor a cafeteria!)

Both previous Harvard College students seemed genuinely happy in the midst of their second year of medical school – an attribute us undergraduates didn’t expect with negative misconceptions of the rigors of graduate school!

Two more generous Harvard College alumni and current Columbia Medical School first years met us to show us around the campus. It was a top-down tour as we started on the roof and they swept us away with a breathtaking skyline of New York City.

The roof of Columbia Medical School's Bard Building

The theme of the day was how great the Pass/Fail system is because the first 1.5 years of Columbia Med follow this more relaxed system. The students loved how this grading style developed a community between the ~160 students of a class to the point where wonderfully organized, color-coded study guides were freely emailed out to share! It also gave students time to frolic outside the library to enjoy the nearby Times Square, performing in theatre, or watching free symphony style shows on “Musical Mondays.” Needless to say, we’re all determined to bring this laid back grading style to Harvard College!

I personally believe that the gloomy hesitation looming around committing to medical school stems from the negative connotations of studying in a competitive, cut-throat environment. I’m confident enough to speak on behalf of the group, however, and say that we were deeply comforted in the fact that these medical students had happy and balanced lives; continued reassurance was also provided by the fact that all our tour guides so far were also Harvard College undergraduates because this made it easier for us to picture ourselves in their shoes and being happy in medical school.

 

Major themes: Harvard Alumni & Celebrities (not mutually exclusive)

Snaps to Academic clarity & Spring weather!!

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Last week, I had the worst week ever. Ever. Capital E.

I’m definitely being as dramatic as:

Probably true at every university…

 

And yes, I’ve jumped on the meme-bandwagon. In fact, many of my thoughts occur in a series of flashing Push it somewhere else Patrick and Keanu Reeves Conspiracy memes and I think I’m hilarious.

 

It all started Valentine’s Day when my intake of chocolate wasn’t nearly high enough, ultimately pushing my prolonged cold into a seemingly perpetual flu.(Direct cause and effect here people.) I know I’m premed, but this just means I’m perfectly fine being surrounded by sick people. However, I’m the worst sick person ever. Being physically ill never fails to catalyze a concomitant homesickness which manifested itself when my mom called me and the kindness and concern in her voice mobilized streamlining tears. Poor mother – she just wanted to know if I needed anything from Costco … I wonder if it’s too late to ask for a churro…

I’ll be 21 in 10 months (but who’s counting?!) and all I want (besides a crunchy Costco churro) is to sit around with my sister and tease my parents. I literally hadn’t been this congested, exhausted, and homesick since the December of my freshman year. As I was trying to analytically pinpoint the reasons behind my sophomore slumpin’ week, I thought about some of the summer applications I had recently submitted. These first few weeks of the spring semester are always hectically spent researching and applying for summer plans/jobs/internships, etc. Although it may be difficult at times to navigate resources, having too many resources is one of the best problems to have. Thank goodness for the Office of Career Services for centralizing summer resources! What I would LOVE and be SO LUCKY to do this summer is intern in a Spanish speaking country and pretend that I’m suave for 8 weeks. As I slowly conceptualized the thought of being in a foreign country on my own for two months, I realized this would be time spent not soaking up California sunshine and loving.

I think much of this week’s past emotional turmoil stems from the fact that I’m growing up and as time swiftly passes by, San Diego is becoming more of my past rather than my future. This freaks me out. There isn’t really a euphemism for that. Although I feel really lame for being homesick, I also feel like these feelings are a natural part of attending college so far from home. I want to discourage, however, having distance as a main factor in your college decision process! I wouldn’t trade anything for my East Coast experiences. Yet this concept of growing up genuinely excites me as much as it profoundly frightens me. I don’t know what will happen this summer and I may be internally panicking for absolutely no reason. It’s easy for me to say that I can’t wait for summer but it’s even easier for me to retract that statement after what I realized last Saturday.

As I was finalizing some last details of my Alternative Spring Break Trip to New York City (sponsored by Phillips Brooks House Association, PBHA), I realized that Spring Break is literally right around the corner which means that the spring semester is over! I know this sounds insane (rightfully so!) but once freshmen “block” (gather a group of up to 8 friends who they’ll live in the same upperclassman house with for their remaining time as undergraduates), Housing Day (the epic day freshman blocking groups receive their upperclassman house) happens, Spring Break happens, exams happen, and summer begins!! My astonishment with the realization that spring semester is over became an unhealthy obsession which soon stopped Monday night when my friend had to pull out his laptop during dinner to prove to me that the spring semester is definitely not over nor close to being over.

All in all, I’m really glad to be reporting that my sophomore year progression is slowly regaining its uphill momentum as my immunity system restores itself as well. In an attempt to respectfully avoid any more slumpin’, I strive to REM cycle more and pset (do problem sets/homework) earlier, but more importantly live in the present.

Today was a day of epic proportions – my first of three organic chemistry midterms is over! After going to TF (teaching fellow) and PSL (peer student leader) office hours and reviewing lectures over the long weekend, I actually felt prepared. I also spent the majority of tonight rewarding myself with cookies and the fabulous Mather House also had a movie night showing a classic: Mean Girls with Lindsay Lohan … your face smells like peppermint.

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My first formal exposure to the Spanish language (not counting Dora the Explorer) was in 8th grade where Introductory Spanish was a 6-week course offered as part of the Exploratory Wheel elective. Spanish class soon became a year-long course for me every year since then – even now in college!

I clearly remember the day in 8th grade when I became determined to acquire Spanish fluency. One of my good friends – endearingly nicknamed Briana Banana – raised her hand in the midst of silence during a writing exercise. She inquired about one of the new infinitives we just learned meaning “to play” which evoked an alarmed and confused countenance by the teacher who repeated back: “soufflé?!” It was one of those unexpected misunderstandings that provoked our endless giggling – we literally hysterically laughed about this for weeks. If I were to ever write a memoir, this moment wouldn’t only be noted as a randomly hilarious event, but also as a turning point when I decided it would be way more than awesome to be fluent in Spanish so that I could translate words like “soufflé.”

I’ve been learning Spanish for almost 5 years now (didn’t enroll in a Spanish class senior year of high school after taking AP Spanish my junior year, highly recommended class by the way!) and recently, I’ve been feeling that the steep slopes of my learning curve have started their inevitable plateau. This is not to say that Harvard language classes aren’t fulfilling – I definitely feel like I have more mastery with regards to grammatical points such as compound verb phrases and my most recent class (see description below) incorporated Spanish cinema which naturally gave me more of a sense of Spanish history and culture.

[Spanish 40: An advanced language and culture class that further develops linguistic competence using regions of the Hispanic world as a focus for class discussion, grammar review, and an introduction to Hispanic social contexts and texts. Course materials may also include films, interviews, painting, photography, music, selections from the press, as well as literary or historical readings. Frequent written and oral assignments, and a thorough review of grammar.]

I think my lack of complete satisfaction stems from the fact that my Spanish acquisition has been contained within the four walls of a classroom. Ever since high school, most of my time outside the classroom has been dedicated to furthering my scientific interests in order to narrow my future career path. However, I’m pretty confident that I need to either volunteer or study abroad in Spain, Latin America, or any other Spanish-speaking region so that my Spanish learning is concomitant to my personal growth (as corny as that may sound) because studying abroad offers a harmonious combination of formal learning in the classroom and informal learning via outdoor adventures and interpersonal interactions. My adventures in Vietnam this J-term have really cemented my desires to pursue being active abroad in the near future.

As a first generation Vietnamese-American, I simultaneously learned Vietnamese and English growing up. I’ve never received any formal Vietnamese instruction, but I can listen and speak just as well as I can butcher words when I read them. I couldn’t write Vietnamese if my life depended on it and my reading abilities are fairly limited to restaurant menus. Therefore, I depend on my listening comprehension and speaking skills for communication. My parents’ friends are generally impressed with my fluent façade because most Vietnamese kids born in the US have English-dominated language skills. I believe my bilingual language advantage stems from the fact that I grew up living with my grandparents so the demand for Vietnamese was higher. However, this advantage no longer applies in college where I no longer reside with anyone who pressures me to speak Vietnamese. My desire to maintain my Vietnamese in college led me to volunteer in Dorchester, a heavily Vietnamese populated community near Cambridge. These efforts haven’t been too helpful since the PBHA BRYE (Boston Refugee Youth Enrichment) program aims to tutor struggling Vietnamese teens in English. I’ve also sought out various ways to enhance the Vietnamese half of my Vietnamese-American identity such as participating in Len Duong Camp last summer and traveling to Vietnam this J-term.

I’ve been in Vietnam almost two weeks now and my parents who once use to mercilessly describe my Vietnamese abilities as pathetic, now just tell friends and relatives that I’m indeed capable of speaking Vietnamese. I’ve learned much more slang as well as new vocabulary – specifically for all the new fruits and cuisines that aren’t readily available in the United States.

LEMON Ritz…WHAT?!

I think the most convincing proof of my Vietnamese acquisition has been my improved abilities to make jokes and puns in Vietnamese!!

I’m not even sure if Charles Dickens has enough words to describe how fulfilling my first (and hopefully not last!) trip to Vietnam has been. Everything from meeting all the relatives who I have and haven’t heard about to seeing where my parents were married and where they use to hang out afterschool has not only been a culturally immersive experience, but also a personally fulfilling one.

A man playing the recorder…with his nose!!

I intend on using this family trip to Vietnam as a catalyst for studying abroad because I am SO ready to collect some stamps in my passport!

A street sign in Saigon – I guess rockets are allowed on this street?? 😉

This restaurant had a special vomit section in the bathroom and we still ate there.

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So one topic that I’m kinda shocked I haven’t discussed yet on this blog is my involvement with the Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA), especially since it’s a BIG part of my life on campus!

The Phillips Brooks House is an umbrella organization at Harvard that supports 86 volunteer programs (now 87 with the inclusion of a new program aimed at helping Alzheimer’s patients) in the Cambridge and Boston areas.  We pride ourselves in the diversity of both our constituents and our volunteers, meaning its all one big family devoted to public service and social justice!

I became involved in PBHA the October of my freshman year when I signed up to participate in Elderly 1-2-1, a program that pairs up student volunteers with senior citizens in the Cambridge area and supports them in fostering friendships!  Basically that is just a more official way of saying we visit senior citizens in the area and talk to them, read to them, walk with them, and generally hang out with them.  It’s really fun and has been something that has made a HUGE impact on my Harvard experience.

Starting the second semester of my freshman year, I took over as Director of Elderly 1-2-1, which has been a BIG job but super rewarding!  Nothing makes me happier than when I go on our introduction trips and witness a volunteer’s first meeting with his/her participant!  In what other venue would I get to witness the start of long-lasting friendships over and over again?

As the director of Elderly 1-2-1, I have responsibilities including recruiting both student volunteers and community participants, maintaining relationships with social workers and other community organizations that have similar goals, arranging volunteer-participant pairs, evaluating the effectiveness of our program, leading meetings and reflections, and basically staying on top of things.  It’s really an exercise of human relations and organization.

In addition to the responsibilities I have to running the Elderly 1-2-1 program, I also have responsibilities to the greater PBHA organization.  To that end, I go to Cabinet meetings once a month (a gathering of all of the directors) to go over mission statements, vote on important decisions, and learn how to better lead my program.  I also participate in fundraising campaigns like the Phone-a-thon, interviews of officers, cleaning efforts of the Phillips Brooks House (yes, we are actually housed in a house – it’s in the Yard and is super gorgeous), and much more!

This is the Phillips Brooks House!

A few weeks ago, Cabinet met to elect our new PBHA student officers – those that make everything PBHA does for the community possible.  After a lot of thought and consideration, I decided to run for Programming Co-Chair – one of the two people that makes sure that all of the programming in PBHA (meaning all of PBHA’s community efforts) runs smoothly!  And guess what? I WON!!!! That’s right, you are now reading the blog of Kate Meakem, Programming Co-Chair of PBHA.  It’s a huge job, but I feel ready to take on the challenge!  So be ready for MANY more posts on the workings of PBHA, because starting next semester, it will be by far my largest extracurricular activity.

But this post has two parts to it – the first to tell you about the marvelous-ness of PBHA and my involvement in it, and the second to talk about finding my “place.”

I think a large part of my college experience thus far has been finding my “place” or identity on campus.  When I was in high school, it was easy for me to identify myself to people – “Hey, my name is Kate Meakem, and I am the oldest of five kids” or “…the Editor-in-Chief of the yearbook” or “… a smart student working really hard to get into college.”  I felt like I was passionate about my activities as was indicative of the amount of time I devoted to them.

Since coming to Harvard, a lot of me has felt sort of lost.  A big question I’ve been asking myself has been, “Do I know who I am if I don’t have a defining activity that I’m passionate about?”  So far I’ve been all over the place in my extracurricular involvement – PBHA, Kappa Alpha Theta, blogging, Women in Business, working at Lamont Café, acting in plays – and up until now, no one thing had taken me captive.

And I think that’s all part of the growing experience of college, or really any major transitional period in life.  For me, the answer was running for an officer position in PBHA because in my mind there is no greater way to spend time than to try and better the world we live in.  But I also know other sophomores who are finding their niches in their social organizations, their houses, the Crimson, the Institute of Politics, or any other number of activities.

The answer that experts would probably give to my above question – Can I know myself without a major activity to define me? – is probably a resounding no.  And I would agree with them.  I certainly know important things about who I am outside of what I do.  But what we do is really important in shaping our self-conceptions and the way other people view us.  So I guess it has to be at least kind of important, right?

Obviously, I’m still trying to sort all of this out, but I am really pumped to be joining the PBHA Officer Team.  If we really are what we do, I can think of no better person I’d like to be or any better thing I’d like to do.

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The theme of last weekend was: The Future! So it’s pretty safe to say a concomitant theme would be: Hot Mess.

Most colleges ask freshmen to state their major at the beginning of their undergraduate journey. However, Harvard knows that its students’ interests are synonymous to windy tornadoes that could really take us anywhere. Meaning, Harvard will nod and smile reassuringly when we throw around intended concentrations (AKA majors) during our freshman year, but will only take official documentation during our (supposedly wiser) sophomore year. Throughout this process of declaring our concentrations, sophomores will meet with both concentration and academic advisers to develop a list of classes we intend to take during the rest of our majestic time as an undergraduate. All this pondering and planning really puts things in perspective because you can realistically chronicle required/desired classes for your concentration, secondary, citation, and even indicate that you plan to study abroad! SNAPS to academic clarity and a sense of purpose!! … at least for now…

But let’s discuss a topic that isn’t as deathly intimidating as your long-term-future life plans. Let’s talk about your relatively-shorter-term future life plans!

By now, it’s undeniable that the best season, summer, has ended and autumn is in full swing.

Lucky residents of Mather, an upperclassmen house, get a friendly reminder of East Coast beauty every time they step outside.

And let’s just skim over the perpetually frosty winter season and move right along into spring – more specifically Spring Break! As a person who strives to radiate California, I imagine tanning, beach volleyball, and lemonade as three necessary factors for a perfect Spring Break. However, college serves as a perfect time to not only redefine yourself academically, but also redefine what trivial things, like Spring Break, can mean to you. Last year, during my first Spring Break as a college student, I traveled to New York City with a group of Harvard students I didn’t know in order to volunteer with God’s Love We Deliver and tour medical schools. After this week, I left New York on a bus back to Harvard with the same group of Harvard students who were no longer strangers, but instead great friends!

Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) (basically the Harvard version of Key Club International) is the altruistic heart of Harvard College and one of the many beautiful programs they run is called Alternative Spring Break (ASB). Last year, I participated in the ASB New York Premed trip which actually convinced me to commit to the premed track after being hazy for what felt like a lifetime. ASB trips not only foster friendship due to the inherent intimacy of a small group travelling, but also is the perfect harmony of productivity and fun! I’m definitely obsessed with ASB and that’s one of the reasons why I applied to direct the trip this year. I was partnered up with another sophomore to direct the trip and I certainly cannot verbally express my excitement about the great potential the trip has! Although the trip won’t occur until March 2012, paper applications have closed and we spent the long weekend interviewing over 70 fantastic applicants! Although these three loooong days of interviewing really cut into my physics midterm and biology paper writing time, I just can’t contain my excitement for this trip!! Maybe I’m just REALLY excited for The Game (at Yale this year). GO HARVARD!!! YAY IVY LEAGUE CHAMPS!!!

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Carolyn Chou, sophomore, Pfoho, Sociology
PBHA Afterschool Program Group Officer

Hi, my name is Carolyn Chou and I am a sophomore from Lower Merion, Pennsylvania.

When I arrived at Harvard the fall of my freshman year, I expected to do some community service, but I did not expect public service to become the largest component of my first year. After participating in the First Year Urban Program (FUP) before orientation, I realized how important it was to me to prioritize service during the year. I learned about the Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) and found out about the countless service programs run through the organization.

When I walked in to the Phillips Brooks House (the home of PBHA) for the first open house, I didn’t expect to become so involved so quickly. The open house was overwhelming (PBHA runs over 85 programs!) and I didn’t even know where to start. However, after talking to different people, I decided to get involved with a few programs that work with recent immigrant youth and gender issues. I now participate in both mentoring and tutoring programs, and I love working with kids of all different ages and both teaching them and learning from them.

PBHA is an amazing organization on campus; it is a student-run nonprofit that works in many different communities in Boston and Cambridge and has programs focusing on all kinds of different services from afterschool programs to environmental advocacy programs to teen mentoring programs to spring break trips (I got to go to the Mississippi Delta on one of these trips last year!), PBHA really has a program for anything you could be passionate about.

PBHA has provided me with an outlet to both do service work and think and talk about what that service work means to me and how to do it most effectively. PBHA has really pushed me to think critically about my role in service work and has supported me in really thinking about the work I am doing. Because of this, I decided I wanted to get more involved with the organization, so I ran to be an officer at the end of my first semester. It has been another really rewarding experience so far!

Along with becoming an officer, I also became a director of a tutoring program with recent immigrant and refugee youth in Boston. Being a director means that I help coordinate the program and make sure everything is running smoothly. I love getting to get off campus and explore a new part of the city while working with kids and other volunteers. Directing has taught me a lot about running a program so far, and while it’s been a lot of work, it has been really valuable.

For example, we had a field trip for our students one weekend, and it was so much fun! We brought them to campus to watch the Harvard men’s lacrosse team play Dartmouth. It was sunny but cold so, after the game, we made hot chocolate and played soccer together. All of the volunteers and the kids had a great time, and it was nice to bring the kids to our home and show them around!

Hanging out at the lacrosse game during our field trip with Elizabeth and Tai.

PBHA has been a huge part of my time at Harvard so far, and it has been a great way to make friends who share my passions, explore Boston and meet people outside of Harvard, and work toward social justice.

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