Summer has wound down to an end, and here we arrive at another amazing year at Harvard. Sometimes I find that I get so caught up in everything going on in my college life that I forget how truly blessed I am to attend such a fantastic institution, one that offers me every opportunity if I only look for it. But the beginning of the year is certainly an excellent reminder.
Even though I’ve been on campus all summer working for PBHA (Phillips Brooks House Association), there is something distinctly magical about Harvard at the beginning of the school year. The air turns crisp, the sun is bright, and there is a charged atmosphere of excitement as new friends are made, old friends are reacquainted, classes are chosen, extracurriculars are comped, and dorms are unpacked.
Before I started writing this blog post, I took some time to go back through my previous posts, all the way back to the beginning of my freshman year, and it is amazing to me how much/little time has gone by and all that has happened in the interim.
One post that is certainly missing, however, is one about my summer experience with PBHA’s Summer Urban Program (SUP). I tried several times to write this summer, but shockingly working 80+ hours a week is not conducive to publishing anything of substance. Opening lines of half-completed posts that I still have up on my computer (yes, I am one of those people who keeps up tabs and windows from months and months ago) include “You guys would not even believe how amazing this month has been!” and “Two weeks left of summer. Two weeks left of the best summer of my life.”
And these lines are true, but they don’t do a great job of describing what exactly I did this summer, so here it goes.
This summer I worked for the PBHA’s Summer Urban Program (SUP) on its Full Time SUPport (hehe get it?) team. Some background information – PBHA is a student led, student run 501c3 nonprofit organization that helps to run over 80 public service programs that reach out to over 10,000 people in the Greater Boston area. At 1,400 student volunteers from Harvard, Wellesley, Tufts, Wentworth, and Boston University, we are one of the largest student-run organizations in Boston.
SUP is a huge part of what we do. With twelve inner-city summer camps run throughout Cambridge and Boston, over 800 kids, around 80 college-aged Senior Counselors, and many more high-school aged Junior Counselors, in addition to the student Directors, the Staff, and the Full and Part Time SUPport teams, SUP is a large operation. As a student Officer at PBHA during the school year and a member of the Full-Time SUPport team during the summer, I got to help run SUP at every level.
At the organizational level, I was able to see the big picture of SUP, talk about its vision and goals, help enact and enforce its policies, and have input on the outcomes not only for that summer but in some cases for summers five years out. At more of an operational level, each member of the Full-Time SUPport team had projects to complete over the course of the summer. Mine were organizing two weeks-worth of Senior Counselor Training at the beginning of the summer, coordinating and leading the Community Cousins program (which I am continuing into the school year, so more on that later!), and carrying out all of the Evaluation processes that help SUP assess its programming and progress. In addition, as Programming Chair during the school year, I also continued my responsibilities to what we call the “term-time” programs that chose to continue throughout the summer.
And at the most basic (and fun) level of SUP, I spent a lot of time leading camping trips in the Myles Standish State Forest, lifeguarding at the beach or the pool, substitute teaching, and driving a 10 passenger van full of children around to and from various field trips! This was easily my favorite part of the summer because it meant that I got to know the kids. Nothing made my day more than when I would pull up to one of the camps, and the kids getting into my van recognized and talked to me! It was the time when I could look at them and know without a doubt that all of my late nights and early mornings and lack of weekends were absolutely worth it.
On top of all of my SUP stuff, I also wrote two and a half briefings for Harvard Model Congress to be sent out to schools around the country for our conferences coming up later this year!
Whew (taking a breath because I’m pretty sure I wrote all of that so fast I didn’t breath). So yes, this is why I didn’t blog.
But lest you think my summer was horrendous, let me remind that it was the best summer of my life! I didn’t complete any of the goals on my summer bucket list that I alluded to in my previous blog post, but that was only because when I made that list, I had no idea what kinds of opportunities would be open to me! Rather than learning how to do a cartwheel (I’m starting to believe I might actually be hopeless), I learned how to lifeguard. Rather than watch all of the Academy Award Best Pictures, I watched a Boston Public Schools community meeting in which parents, students, and teachers alike debated the current redistricting process. And rather than eat at a cool new cultural food restaurant every Friday night, I found myself eating perfectly normal sandwiches from delis in Dorchester, the South End, South Boston, Mattapan, and Cambridge.
I also did some really cool things like go to the Museum of Science, a Pawtucket Red Sox game, Canobie Lake Park, Lexington and Concord, Minute Man State Park, Cape Cod, and Washington D.C.! Some of these were on my own time, but most were on field trips with the camps or with my Community Cousins program!
I guess the bottom line is that while I was working all summer, work was fun, and I made so many friends in the process! And as I am starting to think about my future for life outside of college, I’ve learned that any profession where I can gain new experiences, love my work, and make new friends (isn’t that wonderfully vague?) is exactly where I want to be.