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Archive for : college

Repair Interview: Rachel Sumekh of Swipe Out Hunger

Repair the World recently launched our High Holiday campaign, focused on advancing racial justice and building relationships between communities. There are many different ways to get involved (Learn about the root causes of racial injustice in America. Host or attend a Turn the Tables dinner. Take action in solidarity with our neighbors as a multiracial Jewish community.) – and we encourage you to explore them all.

Meanwhile, we will be introducing you to some of our favorite change makers. Here’s Rachel Sumekh, the Founding Executive Director of Swipe Out Hunger. Sumekh co-founded the organization – which lets students donate unused points from university meal plans to feed peers and community members facing hunger – during her sophomore year at UCLA. Today, Swipe Out Hunger exists on 23 campuses across the country, and is changing the conversation about poverty and food insecurity on college campuses. Read on…

What was the inspiration behind Swipe Out Hunger?
It started out because we were annoyed with the university for creating meal plans where students who had excess points at the end of a semester lost them. It began informally, with students going into dining halls and buying meals to go, then giving them to homeless and other food insecure people. But the university had some issues with this model. Fortunately, rather than stopping us, they said we should develop a new model. Today, if a student has extra meal swipes, they can opt into the Swipe Out Hunger program and convert that money into resources to help food insecure students.

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Dear Class of 2014…. #RepairGrads Crowdsourced Commencement Speech is Back!

Hey graduates! (And parents, siblings, besties, and buddies of graduates…) These are exciting times, and now is your time to shine.

Around the country, graduating seniors are getting ready to walk down the aisle, receive their diploma, and head off into the wild world. But before they do that, they will listen to a commencement speech (or 7) that is supposed to launch them towards greatness. Don’t get us wrong, we loooove a good commencement speech given by some luminous figure. But we firmly believe you don’t have to be famous to inspire others. So we’re turning to you! 

Last year, Repair the World asked the class of 2013 to tweet their wisdom and inspiring words – in 140 characters or less, of course – to create a crowdsourced commencement speech like no other. Now with another school year come and gone, we’re at it again. As a member – or loved one – of the class of 2014, what would you like to say? To yourself and your classmates? To the students coming up under you? Or to the whole world?

Tweet your thoughts and wishes to this year’s grads at #RepairGrads14. The most ReTweeted wishes are eligible to win amazing prizes from Repair the World!

Need some ideas to get you started? Before twitter and viral videos, the 1997 Kurt Vonnegut commencement speech went viral. (Ok, it may be an urban myth that it was at MIT. And, yes, we know that many of you weren’t yet out of middle school – but it’s a great read). Three years ago, Stephen Colbert rocked it out at Northwestern University, while Ellen DeGeneres got everyone laughing and thinking at Tulane in 2009.

Now it’s your turn!

Recapture the Magic of College: Host an Educational Salon

August is “Back to School” month at Repair the World. Check back all month long for posts about inspiring education organizations, amazing educators, and ways to get your education on – whether you’re a student or not!

Do you miss college? Of course you do (unless you’re currently a student, of course). When it comes to true learning – the pure, unadulterated work and pleasure of filling our minds with knowledge – college is the best time of our lives. And for graduates, even if we love the work we do, it’s hard not to get a little wistful for a daily schedule designed around reading, thinking and growing.

But don’t get too distressed! It is possible to recapture some of the magic of college without shelling out lots of money for graduate school. The secret: host a salon. Get a group of like minded, college-missing friends together (you know the ones who always say things like, “my brain has totally atrophied since graduation!), pick a subject, and get learning! If you do, you will be in good company as salons were once an important part of European Jewish society. Here’s how:

Pick a location. Find a cozy, relatively quiet place like a cafe or your living room. Have someone joining you from out of town? Bring them into the conversation with Skype.

Have snacks. You cannot learn on an empty stomach – plus, food helps bring people together. So get some healthy snacks together (they don’t have to be fancy) and have them available for noshing on throughout the evening. And don’t forget the coffee.

Teach each other. Everyone has an area of expertise, whether it’s 19th century Russian politics, the history of the Slinky, or how to knit a pair of tube socks. Each gathering, pick a teacher or discussion leader from within your group, so everyone has a turn sharing their knowledge with the group.

Bring in an expert. Have an topic that really interests your group? Invite an outside expert or locally-based professor or book author to come speak at your salon gathering. Cook them a delicious dinner as thanks, or chip in as a group to pay them an honorarium. It will feel just like a college class, minus the steep tuition.

Do good: Each time you meet, put a box in the center of the room and ask everyone to make a donation to an education-focused organization. You can also plan service days for salon members – tutoring days, or working at a soup kitchen, etc. – which will help build your sense of community, and do some good!

JustCity Offers a Pre-College Summer Program in Service and Social Justice

Hey high school sophomores and juniors: what are you doing this summer? If the idea of living in NYC, learning about social change, and making a difference sounds like an ideal way to spend your break, then consider JustCity: A Fellowship for Jewish Social Entrepreneurship.

Created by the Jewish Theological Seminary in partnership with AVODAH, USY, and the National Ramah Commission, JustCity is a brand-spanking new pre-college summer program that offers the opportunity to deepen Jewish learning, live on a college campus, strengthen leadership skills, learn from change-makers in every field, and be a hands-on part of advancing service and social justice.

JustCity’s Director, Aliyah Vinikoor, filled us in about this innovative and exciting summer opportunity. Find out more, and learn how to apply (before May 1) below!

How did the JustCity program come about?
Tikkun Olam is really woven into JTS’ mission as a school. We already have a Fellowship in Jewish social entrepreneurship, which is a year long intensive program for students who want to develop the skills they need to go into Jewish service and leadership. That’s a program that helps our students cultivate a connection between social action and Jewish identity. More recently we realized that high schoolers are also participating in this work, and have a desire to put their passion for Jewish social justice into action – but don’t necessarily have a forum to develop leadership and organizing skills. We developed JustCity as a pre-college summer program to provide that.

What are the what/when/where/why/who specifics of the program?
The program will run for the month of July, and is meant for Jewish high school students going into their junior or senior years. They will live in the dorms, eat in the cafeteria, and get a good sense of college life. In the mornings they’ll take a text-based course on social action. These classes will be taught by leaders in the social justice field, and will lay the ground work for the work they do later in the day. In the afternoon they’ll volunteer for organizations that do environmental work, community organizing, work with the elderly, work with kids, and work in many other fields.

What about social time and down time?
For our launch year, which is this year, we’re hoping to have a small cohort of 25-50 participants, so that we can really build community. In the evenings a couple times a week they will have a formal dinner with a JTS professor or a leader in the Jewish social justice community. There will also be field trips, fun excursions like going to a Mets game or going fishing in Central Park, networking opportunities, and a lot of free time for them to just explore the city independently. We’ll also offer a college prep component with skills based classes in how to write an essay or resume, how to put together a portfolio or start a job search.

How can people apply?
Applications are up online right now. The deadline is technically May 1, but we’re accepting students on a rolling basis. I’ve been getting a lot of calls and emails from interested students, so there’s a lot of momentum – we’re really excited to see where the first cohort goes!

Meet Laura Kassen!

Meet Laura Kassen, our Education Campaign Fellow and AVODAH Corps Member! We asked Laura a few questions about her decision to join AVODAH, and her work with Repair: 

Why did you decide to serve with AVODAH this year?

In December 2011, during the fall semester of my senior year in college, I was forced to face “reality.” After constantly being asked various forms of the question “What are you doing next year?” I decided to bulk down and actually figure it out…or at least come up with something I could say in response. At one point I was so overwhelmed with the process that my go-to answer became making up various professions and telling something different to each person who asked. Many people may actually think that I am becoming an astronaut or a professional fortune-cookie writer—I apologize that neither one of these is true, but in my opinion I am doing something way more exciting.

I knew that I wanted to work in some capacity at a non-profit organization, particularly in the Jewish world. I also have always had a strong interest in education and education reform. While perusing, I stumbled upon all these job opportunities that sounded amazing. Then I noticed that they all had something in common—they were all AVODAH placement organizations.

I spent time doing research on AVODAH’s website, talking to Corps members and participating in informational conference calls. AVODAH seemed like it would be a great opportunity to do meaningful work after college. I was excited about the possibility of working at a highly effective non-profit, while living in a communal environment, and engaging in learning opportunities that would help me become an agent for social change. I thought AVODAH would be a great way for me to learn from my peers and help me gain an understanding of what I’d like to do in the future. So in January 2012 I applied to AVODAH, and in May I was thrilled to learn that my placement organization would be Repair the World!

What excited you about serving at Repair the World?

I was super excited (and still am!) about becoming a part of an organization whose mission is something I really value. I have always been proud of my Judaism and interested in service, so it was thrilling to find an organization that seeks to truly connect these two important facets of my life and make them a defining aspect of American Jewish life. I am excited to spread the word about Repair the World and help the organization flourish.

What are you looking forward to this year?

I am looking forward to learning more about structure, and what goes on “behind the scenes” at a non-profit organization. I feel like Repair the World is a great place to do this because it is growing rapidly in terms of outreach, resources and education. I am also looking forward to applying what I learn through AVODAH to my work at Repair the World, whether it be by hearing from my fellow Corps members or learning something during our educational programming.

What would you say to college seniors who might be thinking about doing a year of service post-graduation?

I say if you are able to commit to a year of service, I would definitely encourage you to go for it. A year of service has really put things into perspective for me. I have had the opportunity to learn so much about myself, about social justice, and a wide-spectrum of unique opinions and ideas. And if you cannot dedicate a whole year to doing service, try to become involved in other capacities. Volunteer with your friends on weekends, read up on social inequalities, and attend events with topics related to social justice. You may find something that really grabs your attention!

How do you see this year informing your future career plans?

I think both my experience at Repair the World and AVODAH will help me figure out what I would like to do in my professional career. I hope that I will be fortunate enough to find something that combines all of my interests, and even if I don’t I would like to find out other opportunities to stay involved. I am very excited to grow professionally, expand my interests, and do my part to help with Repair the World’s mission.

Laura Kassen is from Westport, Connecticut. She attended Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where she was an American Studies major and History minor.


A Recycled Status: Reflections from a recent college graduate

Around this time last year, I remember reading an overflowing newsfeed of status updates along the lines of: “done with college,” “never going to the library again,” “just finished my last final ever” and my personal favorite, “boom.” And I remember updating my own status, which read: “ARIA AUERBACH IS DONE WITH COLLEGE!!!!!!!!!!” (obviously showing my excitement with all capital letters and an unnecessary number of exclamation marks).

A year later, I’m wondering: how long after you graduate is still acceptable to say: “I just graduated college”?

In addition to the excitement and craziness of holding a Diploma with my name printed on it—which, in retrospect, really just looks like an oversized picture frame with the calligraphy branding paper inside—I remember being a bit worried that all the academic knowledge I stored in my brain from my Psychology degree, wasn’t the same kind of information I was going to need when I moved to New York City.

Things I learned in college:

  • Statistical equations I’m not sure I will use
  • To memorize the MLA and APA style guide
  • Theories named after people who seem especially important
  • Read and highlight. Read and highlight. Read and highlight.
  • Bring coffee to the library

Things I wish I learned in college:

  • Rules of the Microwave: Is it aluminum or plastic that can’t go in? Why is the Popcorn button always 30 seconds more than time than it says on the bag?
  • Do your checks get signed on the bottom right or bottom left?
  • The difference between business casual and business attire
  • How to install a cable box
  • How can I participate in organized volunteer days outside of college?

I learned very quickly that aluminum should not go in the microwave. The popcorn button burns the popcorn. Checks are signed on the bottom left. Business casual can mean anywhere from nice jeans to kitten heels, while business attire does not include jeans and almost always requires a nice jacket. And the cable box…well, I learned to call a handy man.

Three hundred and sixty five days without a science class or a practicum trip to a nearby pre-school, has challenged me to immerse myself in a different kind of learning without a concrete syllabus. A course that is timeless and in which I will always be enrolled: exploring day-to-day “real world” experiences as they come.

So far, some of my most valuable post-college learning has come from experiences of helping others. I’ve begun to learn that the simplicities of my life may be privileges for others. By volunteering at the HOPE Count in early January, for example, I realized that complaining about the tininess of my NYC bedroom is selfish, when clearly there are plenty of folks who do not have a real room to consider home.

In the same way, working for an organization that promotes service and volunteerism has taught me that this is just the beginning. Learning about different kinds of service – whether in my own community or around the world—and understanding that these experiences are powerful for both the person volunteering and the community it helps, has taught me that we can make a difference. And that even I – and other college graduates like me – can be creative, in how we choose to promote and change the world.

Even though I completed my last undergraduate college class a full year ago, I still just graduated college. Sure, I have a different routine now and I don’t spend my weekends in the library. But I still enjoy learning and being stimulated in educational ways—whether it be through working, volunteering, cooking, or exploring new adventures that come my way.

And now, in addition to my academic education in college, and through my initiation into the working world, I’ve also started working toward a degree in RWE, “Real World Exposure.” This is a degree I’ll pursue throughout my life.

So this year, I am eager to recycle part of my college graduate status from last year: “STILL a recent college graduate, with an enhanced understanding of life!”

Can’t wait to see what it will be in 5, 10 and 15 years…

What words of wisdom do you have for this year’s graduating seniors? Tweet us your bits of wisdom for our latest grads using #RepairGrads12.

This post is written by Repair the World Development Assistant, Aria Auerbach.

How Socially Conscious is Your College?

It’s college season out there! All across the country, hopeful high school seniors are receiving letters (hopefully fat ones!) from colleges and universities letting them know if they’ve been admitted to the class of 2016. Meanwhile, younger high school students are heading out on scouting trips to decide which colleges they want to apply to.

There are lots of criteria to consider – size of the student body, academic reputation, location, tuition costs – and now, there is one more: social consciousness. This year, Best Colleges Online compiled a list of the top 20 socially conscious colleges in the country. Their top picks included schools that “facilitate this desire to do right by the world” and offer “socially responsible opportunities including amazing volunteer projects, classes about ethical practices, green initiatives, political activism” and more.

Repair the World was proud to see that two of the colleges we partner with – UC Berkeley and University of Washington – made the cut. Check out the Top 10 socially conscious colleges below, and view the rest of the list here.
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