Giving Back

Giving Back

We’ve both been on the receiving end of really awesome mentors, so it doesn’t seem fair to get all of that without giving back in some way too. Have you read “Home of the Brave?” If you were as blown away by it as Garrett and I were then this next idea will seem like a no-brainer. The book is about how 11-year-old Kek, a boy from Africa, immigrates to America but has a hard time feeling like this is his home. I kept thinking there had to be something we could do to help kids like him feel more welcome, so I came up with an idea, partially inspired by a friend my age from church who immigrated here from Africa. She lives in a NYC family shelter and is really good about her homework and she’s so nice to everyone. We sometimes drive her family to our church’s Dyckman Avenue food pantry and on one of those trips I gave her my copy of “Home of the Brave.” After that, I thought I’d get her a map of the US, but I realized that not everyone has a permanent bedroom wall for a wall map, so I bought a bunch of cardboard tri-folds big enough to keep a US map safe (hello Dollar Tree store–so cheap!) and brought them to school where classmates helped me for a few lunch periods assembling “Welcome to America” poster boards, with a map on one side and our stories written on the back side–to try to make a few new young Americans feel more welcome here. Garrett and I learned about the work the Safe Passage Project was doing to help immigrating kids here so we gave Lenni Benson our boards to distribute. She started the non-profit herself and now we’re thinking about how we can create one focused on getting STEM toys and projects to kids who can’t afford to buy them. We’re not there yet, but watch this space!

We like teaching friends from school about things we’re good at—origami, guitar, math, robotics, science, chess, coding and circuitry. And earlier this fall we discovered a new group of friends at POTS (Part of the Solution) where we visit on Sunday afternoons. Some of the kids are our age, some are younger, but they all seem to love learning about the same STEM stuff we do. Sometimes they teach us, like when the amazing twins, Kyle and Kareem, exchanged a few circuitry lessons for their cool dance moves. Friends from Fordham University taught us chemistry tricks on a recent Sunday when they visited POTS, and more than anything we like going there because it’s just as cool to be a mentor as it is to be the student. I’m now thinking of becoming a teacher–when I’m not helping Tripp with his inventions.

Last month we discovered daymaker.com, a website set up to let kids give presents to other kids who don’t have as much. You get to know them through their online profiles and they have gift wish-lists, and of course we always like the lists with STEM stuff on them. It’s so cool to learn about other kids who might first seem like they have a very different life, but then they end up liking all the same things you do. Everyone has an interesting story. Last year we started a December tradition which we’re repeating this year and hopefully finding a way to do it every month going forward: small acts of kindness that have made us feel really good.–Garrett & Tripp

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