IMPACT: DC Blog
Posted on 07/11/2013 @ 12:14 PM
Last Day at Impact DC
Posted on 07/24/2013 @ 10:35 PM
Well, we made it- The last day of Impact DC 2013. Throughout this program, we have learned valuable lessons and got a glimpse at the very real poverty situation that is currently gripping our nation. I truly believe that every one of us has made strides here in DC and friendships that will last a lifetime.
At our final day at Bright Beginnings, the cool weather allowed us to take our classes to the library and the awesome playground outside the school. The kids were cute as ever and jumped for joy upon our arrival. The entire Bright Beginnings service group love all our kids and were genuinely sorry to end our time volunteering at their amazing school and in DC as well.
As our time on Impact draws to a close, we can reflect on everything we have learned since we left 11 days ago. Over the past 11 days, we have volunteered at service sites, conversed with the homeless, lobbied to our state Senators and representatives, made an impact on Washington DC, and learned valuable lessons along the way. As it turns out, it’s not so easy to take life for granted once you realize how precious it is.
We want to thank the staff for an amazing experience in DC and special thanks to Ethan and Ariane for being the best teen coordinators ever!
Posted on 07/23/2013 @ 10:35 PM
When you sign up for IMPACT:DC, they give you lots of information about the program. It's community service/advocacy based, you'll visit local landmarks and get a taste of the college life. But there are a few important things they DON'T tell you, I think partly because they are brave things to claim.
IMPACT: DC will humble you. It will change part of you. It will challenge you. It will give you a new perspective on the world and your place in it. And it will leave you with a fire in your spirit, an ease in your heart, and some pretty great legs too! If you allow it too. If you take the immeasurable opportunities that this program gives you, and go for at least HALF, you will feel it.
We're teenagers, and what I'm claiming is crazy in general, I get it-especially with us. But here's what you're missing. The Jewish youth of this world has the potential to change the world. I believe it, and BBYO believes it too. This program has brought out so much in these young adults. Respect, clarity, self-awareness, poise, and my favorite, passion, has filled their minds and hearts. I claim it because I have experienced it. I have seen it in others.
This morning as we boarded the buses from Maryland Hillel to the Capitol in our professional attire, nerves showed as we sprung up the steps, eager to get there. The sounds of the ride were not voices singing along to a new pop song, but notecards being shuffled and peers role-playing "lobby-senator" in preparation for their meetings.
Once there, and split up into groups by building of appointment, these teens knew it was their moment. As we all meet up in front of the Capitol building under a few trees enjoying the breeze hours later, the energy was palpable. "How did it go!?....What did he say!?...Wasn't that AWESOME?!" These phrases jumped around as the activists shared their experiences, their successes, and their exclusive tours!
We knew we made a difference. We were affecting change, being a part of the legislative process without our right to vote. Only 1% of the U.S. population lobbies, and that was us. As a friend of mine, Alana, said today, "How many times in your life do you get to say 'I just lobbied'!?"
We were taken on a guided tour of the capitol to learn some pretty cool things about our nations' history and the place our democracy is centered around. We came back to campus for some free time (full of conversations on politics to conversations on the new royal baby) and yet another DELICIOUS dinner, courtesy of Maryland Hillel. After, we boarded the buses again for our Monument Tour at night! The teens connected with MLK Jr. and FDR at their memorials, looking over Tidal Basin, and walking under a rising orange moon. We posed with Lincoln and payed our respects to those lost in the Vietnam and Korean Wars.
Before coming back to campus we had circle groups in FDR Memorial Park and discussed how we have been soaking it all in and the effects we've seen it have on ourselves.
I shared the ride home with a younger boy in my service group who really set this all in for me. Having never experienced BBYO, or anything like IMPACT, his take on all this was eye-opening. His spoke of his plans when he returns home to continue helping those in his community, turning a love of his into a way to give back to others in need. During the ride, I really saw this young man for not just what he's done here or said aloud, but what was in his mind and heart. I know he will return from IMPACT:DC and not stop.
What I want you all to understand is that this trip has not just allowed us to make a difference to others, it's made a difference in US too.I don't know of any other program that allows you so many incredible opportunities to grow yourself AND affect change around you, I don't. So to the parents, friends, and family reading this to keep up on your loved one...When they return on Thursday and something in them has changed...don't say I didn't warn you:)
Hannah Procell, North Florida Region
Posted on 07/21/2013 @ 10:35 PM
It's hard to believe we've already been at Impact DC for a week! We were changing the world from the moment we got here, so it was time for a little break for learning. We started the day visiting the Newseum, a Smithsonian exhibit dedicated to learning about the history of press and broadcasting. It offered interactive exhibits and 4-D movies where we were able to learn about important events in history through the eyes of the reporter and discover how freedom of speech and press differed in all parts of the world. After, we were allowed to explore the other Smithsonian Museums with the extra time that we had before heading back to the Hillel.
We got on the bus at 1:45 expecting to head back to the UMD Hillel, but instead we took a surprise trip to the White House, where we spent some time taking pictures of the White House and Michelle Obama's beautiful garden.
When we arrived at the Hillel, Impact participants broke out into groups to discuss education in the United States. We addressed that there are divisions in quality of public schooling based upon where a school is located and brainstormed ways to fix this problem so equal educational opportunities can be provided for everyone regardless of societal standing.
Just before dinner, guest speaker Mark Mellman, political consultant, came to speak to all of us about his experience with supporting political campaigns and how we can get involved. As soon as he finished, we rushed to dinner to enjoy an American meal of burgers, hot dogs, and fries (and veggies, of course). So we can officially say we had American food in the American Capital. From there we participated in a discussion program led by our awesome coordinators, Ariane and Ethan, before breaking out into our lobbying groups so we could prepare what we plan to discuss with our Senators on Tuesday.
Even for one of our more relaxing days, it was still jam packed with learning and excitement...but what else can we expect from Impact DC?
Tamara Zishuk, North Florida Region
Posted on 07/19/2013 @ 05:35 PM
Now, nearing the halfway point of this program, we feel more comfortable with one another and have cultivated meaningful relationships. Thursday night, we continued to explore and share our views on pressing political issues. We were all given an empty pie chart and five pressing social issues, including abortion, affirmative action, and LGBTQ rights. We then divided up the pie chart by how much we cared, either in favor for or against a specific issue.
After completing the pie chart, we tie-dyed our impact t-shirts. During this time, many teens hung out outside of the Hillel building shooting hoops. I got to see another perspective from some of my friends.
This morning my group of eight teens went to our service site, A Wider Circle, which is located in Silver Springs, Maryland. The organization aims to eradicate poverty by supplying people transitioning into homes with furniture, clothing, and the skills needed to find and keep a job. Therefore, today we helped move dressers and other heavy objects from their store room upstairs to the display room. Here, the clients look for the exact items they want to bring home. Next, we volunteers help to load these items from the loading dock into their trucks. Personally, my favorite experience was seeing a client’s face after I told her she can take any of the TV sets available. In addition, we have met other teens from the local neighborhood who are also volunteering to help these families.
In this first half of Impact: DC I have developed better advocacy skills, become more understanding of the homeless population, and made close relationships with teens from across the country. I am excited to hone my skills in the second half of this program!
-Ethan Shire, Westchester Region.
Day 4 Reflections
Posted on 07/19/2013 @ 10:35 AM
The last 24 hours have been amazing. There is a lot to fit into a single blog post, but I’ll give it a shot. After dinner yesterday, the rest of the Impact teens and I got into our Lobby Prep groups. Being from California, we had a hectic meeting. As a group of 10 teens (the largest group here at Impact), we had a conversation about what topics we are passionate about. We understood the difficulty of the lobbying session, as we will have a mere 15 minutes to convince a staff member from Dianne Feinstein’s office to sway a certain way on an issue. We chose two separate topics to talk about, one national and one that pertained more specifically to our state. Our state issue is education reform and our national issue is congressional gridlock. Despite our disagreements and organizational difficulties, we began to plan our presentation. We are so eager to do more research and perfect our presentation.
Following a good night’s sleep, we woke up and had breakfast and began our journey to organization meetings. The previous night, we chose one of four organizations to visit to and learn about, helping us with our lobby prep. I chose to go to AIPAC, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, one of the largest lobbying groups in America. We got to sit in the official boardroom and talk about the Middle East situation. It really inspired me to work for a non-profit. The other three organizations, The National Coalition for the Homeless, Feeding America, and the Human Rights Campaign, all had great presentations according to my friends.
Straight from the AIPAC Head Quarters we took the Metro over to Union Station for from chofesh. After 2 hours wandering about, we began the short walk to the Capitol. Walking up, we couldn’t help but be in awe from the inspiring view of one of the most powerful buildings in the world. We were then taken into a Congressional office in which we got to walk the halls and peek into the offices of congressmen and women. Ed Freel, the Senior Advisor to Senator Tom Carper from Delaware, spoke to us about politics and lobbying. We also got the chance to meet two women from the office of Congressman John Carney, the only representative from the state of Delaware. We learned about their roles and how Capitol Hill runs. Halfway into a discussion about Congressional Gridlock, Congressman Carney walked in and briefly talked to us about his experiences as a Congressman. After a quick power nap on the bus, we returned to Hillel to have an interesting Jewish learning session about stereotypes.
All in all, this day made me feel like a character in House of Cards, just in much hotter and more humid weather. I began to see the more powerful side of DC. Each day here at Impact gets more and more intense and interesting. From Capitol Hill to AIPAC, I began to realize the difference I can make here on this program.
Daniel Roth Pacific Palisades, CA Pacific Western Region BBYO
Day 3 Reflections
Posted on 07/18/2013 @ 10:35 AM
Our third day culminated in Israeli dancing which proved to be one of the favorite activities of the trip thus far. We practiced a myriad of dances and it was so much fun to try and dance to all of them!
We awoke on our fourth day and set out yet again to our respective service sites. My group went to Martha's table, a non profit organization that engages in "sustainable community service." We were able to hang out with the kids, who ranged from six months to five years. We read and played blocks and ran in the sprinklers. All the members of my group seriously enjoyed our time with the kids and we can't wait for Friday.
Our group then ventured into Georgetown, where we convened at the infamous Georgetown Cupcakes. We even met the woman who conceived the idea, Katherine Berman. We spent the next two hours walking around the area and enjoying the shops and restaurants. It was interesting, to me, to see the ways in which our group acted toward the homeless after our day in the park. By the end of our time in Georgetown, nearly every homeless person held a sandwich from our group, and many in our group went out of their way to smile at a homeless person.
We then went to Georgetown University ( after walking up the stairs used to film The Exorcist) and heard from two women from the Center for Youth Justice. They discussed the reasons for why youth should not be tried in adult courts and placed in adult prisons.
Finally, we went to the Kennedy Center and heard from a new, up and coming band, " Mission South." We enjoyed the band and the air conditioning! :-)
Day 2 Reflections
Posted on 07/16/2013 @ 10:00 PM
Although it's only been three days, it feels like I've known my new friends for forever. Through odd ice breakers and meaningful reflections, I can already see the wide variety of participants coming together to form an incredible, passionate community.
After an eye-opening day of community service and learning about homelessness, we had an evening program that incorporated the commemoration of Tisha B'av (day to remember the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem) with accounts of intolerance and discussions about contemporary prejudices in our world. Many participants have chosen to fast for Tisha B'av, a traditional practice to mourn the destruction of the second temple. Many of us, during nightly reflection time, seemed empowered to stand up against injustice.
We continued this day of observance this morning with an excursion to the Holocaust museum in DC. With four floors and seemingly endless information, it was a shocking yet astounding experience. The combination of personal stories, documents, videos, pictures, and objects from the actual concentration camps made the horrific tragedy slightly more tangible. We were given a booklet on a victim's life and followed the story around the museum to figure out if they survived. This made the information in the museum more personal. Upon leaving the main exhibit, I noticed a quote on the side wall by Elie Weisel that read: "For the dead and the living, we must bear witness." This quote really demonstrates a main ideal of this program: speaking out against injustice. Whether it be keeping the horrors of the Holocaust relevant to current times or standing up against intolerance and prejudice, we must bear witness. We are the voices of our generation; we have the power to remove the intolerance from our world.
When we returned from the museum, we had an interesting lesson on the American government and an introduction to lobbying. It's really exciting that we will actually be able to meet with our state representatives and discuss issues that we are passionate about.
As Tisha B'av comes to a close, we reflect on this sad day and acknowledge that the Jewish people survived many struggles throughout history, and now it is our job to speak out and never forget.
- Rachel Mitchell
First day of Impact DC!
Posted on 07/15/2013 @ 05:00 PM
Hello from Impact: DC! We’re off to a great start here at the University of Maryland. We kicked off today’s events with a bright and early wake up in order to be on time to the first day of our service sites. After our gourmet pancake breakfast, we traveled to our sites via metro! Although over 63 kids on a train at the same time may sound a bit crazy, we all managed to get to our incredible sites safely and on time.
One of the service sites that was visited today was Metro Teen AIDS; a non-profit organization that advocates for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in the D.C area. The visit began with a HIV and AIDS 101 introductory lesson. We met all the staff members at Metro Teen AIDS, as well as the “peer educators” who taught us more about the organization and what it stands for. The service site visit was wrapped up with a quick activity, in which we wrote a personal letter to HIV, as if it was a person. Our exciting day didn’t end there! We traveled all the way to the infamous Chinatown of D.C. where we had some free time, otherwise known as Chofesh around here. Some of us shopped, others ate, and some just sat in Starbucks. It was a fun experience and opened us up to the culture and diversity D.C. has to offer.
Right after Chinatown, we were headed to the International BBYO Office located in the heart of D.C.! It was awesome to see the headquarters of the organization we all know and love. There, we heard two previously homeless men speak about their life experiences and their obstacles that they had to overcome to return back to ‘normal’ society. Both of them had different stories, but showed us that it is possible for anyone to be in that position. Also, they conveyed a message of encouragement and strength towards others in our lives. The men empowered us to then talk to other homeless people in McPherson Square. Stories were shared, perspectives were changed, and we all came together to make our first impact on the D.C. community.
After a long and hot day, we traveled back to the beautiful Hillel of UMD and sat down for our second dinner. We are pumped for our program tonight and can’t wait to visit the Holocaust museum tomorrow!
That’s all for now! See you soon!
-Amelia Abemayor ,Brittany Shervan, and the rest of Impact: DC!
IMPACT: DC 2013 is almost here!
Posted on 07/08/2013 @ 05:00 PM
IMPACT: DC 2013 is just hours away! Make sure to check back here for blog updates and below for pictures!
Here's to an epic #BBYOSummer2013