The Boys and Girls Club- Rice Street

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

 

Abstract

 

Within my experience at the Boys and Girls Club on Rice Street, I have gained so very much. In the course of working with the kids at the Boys and Girls Club, I have been very privileged to meet people that I never would have gotten to know otherwise. I have gained a new perspective on what it means to be a person and how much we can truly benefit by serving others. In this essay I will explain what I have learned about economic privilege, diversity, and who I am as a minority woman through my service learning experience.

 

Boys and Girls Club- Rice Street

The purpose of the Boys and Girls Club is to give adolescents from Kindergarten to Twelfth grade a positive environment after school so that they can be engaged in productive activities opposed to being on the street engaged in negative behavior, such as violence and gangs. Through my time there, I have learned a lot about economic privilege. I volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club on Rice Street. A lot of the kids there have a mindset very different from my own and have been through much more than I have. This has shed a light on all of the positive things I have in my life and how important it is for me to give back to those in need. The economic level of those in the area is very low around the club. Students go to low budget public schools and are not exposed to the resources that I had the luxury of growing up with. The club is close to an undeveloped neighborhood where a majority of the students that attend call home. Seeing the environment that they grow up in gives me a lot of insight into how these kids think and understand the world. This is something I take very much for granted in my upbringing. I was raised in a middle class family in a suburban neighborhood. I had a good education and never truly had to struggle in my adolescent years as these kids do every day. The students have parents with low incomes, which leads them to live in poor neighborhoods. Living in a poor neighborhood exposes them to negative activities outside of school. The effects go on and on, but the most unfortunate part is that it all stems from a lack of economic opportunity and privilege. Psychological studies show that children that live in poverty do not mentally develop at the same rate as other children their age. I see kids getting teased and made fun of at the club for being less fortunate than others, when realistically they are almost all in a bad financial situation. The effects of low income are so very devastating. This type of inequality makes me question the state of our governmental affairs as it pertains to the wellbeing and dignity of the poor. The Boys and Girls Club is a great initiative to helping less fortunate kids live better lives, but I believe that we are all human beings. Sadly though, after seeing the state of these kids lives, I feel that more should be done for the less fortunate.

            Through volunteering, I have also gotten to see the interactions these children have in social situations. Studies show that parenting directly affects the success of children in school and social situations (Dobrin, 2012). The Ainsworth’s Strange Situation experiments found that the style of early attachment relationships predicts later emotional development of children (Dobrin, 2012). Children that had an anxious style of attachment were more likely to have low self esteem and be emotionally disturbed (Dobrin, 2012). Low self-esteem in children tends to be related to physical punishment and withholding of love and affection by parents (McLeod, 2012). An unfortunate truth about the state of psychological well being in these students is the fact that many of these kids do have low self esteem and it shows. A great example of low self esteem is one of the girls at the club that I have grown very close to. Her name is Elise and she’s a very funny and energetic girl. One afternoon, I walked in on a game of house being played by Elise and her group of girlfriends. Elise was the mother and the other girls were playing the children. The way the game worked was that all the children had to sit down and be quiet. If they moved or said something the mother did not like, Elise would hit them. The girls begged Elise to take turns and allow them to be the mother just once, but she refused. I eventually stepped in and tried to encourage them to take turns, but Elise became very angered and decided she did not want to play anymore. Elise shows many characteristics of low self esteem and in turn bullies the other girls at the club. It was not until I connected with Elise on a deeper level that I learned exactly why she exhibited these behaviors. Those with low self esteem focus on self protection instead of self enhancement (Baumheister, 2014). She opened up to me and spoke about the ways that her mother treats her and the negative things she says to her. In retrospect, Elise’s bullying and low self esteem are likely tied to the parenting she receives at home. I believe that at this point all I can do for Elise is be a positive role model and lift her up so that hopefully one day she will discontinue these negative behaviors.

            Finally and most importantly, I believe that I have learned a great deal about myself as a minority young woman in comparison to the other minority kids I am exposed to at the club. In Social Psychology, ethnic and racial groups play an important role in how we connect to others. As humans, we tend to be cognitive misers, meaning we think in whatever ways are simplest. This comes into full play when we categorize people into groups (Baumeister, 2014).  As a child, I was always told by other black people that I did not act black enough. They put me in this category labeled other and were dead set that I was not in any way affiliated with their sense of what being African American was. The children at the club are mainly of African American descent. I feel that being a role model to these kids is so important because when they see someone like me that looks like them and is also doing positive things with their life, it encourages them that they can do the same things. I believed for a long time that I wasn’t “black enough” to make a difference within my racial group because I was told so. I thought that I couldn’t affect people in a positive way, but I now know that this is anything but the truth. At the club, I tutor students in math. It is such an extremely rewarding experience to start off with a student in one place and have them come to you four months later and tell you that they now have a better grade in their course. My goal is to make them self confident and happier than they were when they first walked in. Through the Boys and Girls Club, I now understand the importance of my role as an individual within my group. I am supposed to be encouraging and lifting up those less fortunate than me and I have found my own identity along the way.

 

References

Baumeister, R., & Bushman, B. (2008). Social psychology and human nature. Belmont, CA: Thomson Higher Education.

Dobrin, A. (2012, January 1). The Effects of Poverty on the Brain. Retrieved April 16, 2015, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/am-i-right/201210/the-effects-poverty-the-brain

Mcleod, S. (2012, January 1). Low Self Esteem | Simply Psychology. Retrieved April 16, 2015, from http://www.simplypsychology.org/self-esteem.html