For my 3rd action project in the class, Policy, we were assigned the task of finding a place to do service work on our own, a call to action. I decided to offer up physical labour at my local park, Welles Park. As a child, I used to go there all the time to participate in sports. I think my favorite thing about this project was the freedom to do my service work anywhere. It really gave me the opportunity to pursue something I was willing to put time and effort into. I struggles to contact staff to do my service. Some of my classmates ran into similar problems. Below is my written narrative of my experience at Welles Park as well as my interview with one of the employees. Enjoy!
At the beginning of this project I was skeptical I would find a place where I could put a positive impact on my community. After some brainstorming it hit me: Welles Park was perfect because of the positive impact it had on me as a child. As a child, I went to summer camp there and played baseball and football. Welles park taught me social skills and athleticism; now I could be doing the same for young kids in my neighborhood.
Pertaining to the human right of giving a child a safe place to play and socialize with kids their age.
I showed up in person, ready to work but was told I wasn’t needed to work that day. A few days later, while on the train home from school, I received the call I was so eagerly waiting for. Immediately I took the train over there and for the first time I got to meet the park supervisor, Becky. As I entered the main building, it immediately brought back memories; the front desk where I would wait for my mom to pick me up, the peach colored walls darkened by years of dirt and decay, the stagnant smell of chlorine from the pool where I first learned to swim.
Becky introduced me to Mario Ortiz, one of the attendants who works at Welles Park. He put me to work relatively quickly, bringing me to the basement where he instructed me to sweep and mop the hallway floor and art room. The basement had an eerie feeling to it. It was one long, white, bleak hallway with rooms scattered about. Muddy footprints covered the floor. The basement reminded me of Welles Park football, where I picked out my equipment. As I worked, the screams of T-ball player’s parents outside and the flickering, buzzing lights distracted me.
My mopping completed I was instructed to dust the gym floor, repeatedly being tempted by the basketballs in front of me. I couldn’t stop thinking of how much fun it would be to have a quick pick up game with the GCE basketball team, or maybe some of my neighborhood friends. But I resisted the temptations of even sneaking in a quick shot here and there. Once I finished up my two hours for the day I approached the front desk, signed off on my two hours and left.
The next day it was pretty much the same process. I met with Mario and he told me to bring all of the new art boxes into the art room. I was expecting this to be a quick, easy job to accomplish. But due to my recent surgery on my wrist it became a daunting task to bring some of the heavier boxes from one room to the other. Through the awkward carrying positions and occasional cringes from pain I persevered. With a better looking stack of art supplies than what I started with if I don’t say so myself. After working up a sweat my single hour of work flew by rather quickly.
While I was thanking everyone for letting me help out there I coincidentally ran into my old gym coach and football referee from when I was little. Yelling, “hey!”, at a relatively loud level. I ran over and with a big smile and firm handshake I got to catch up for a little. Reminiscing about when I was little, but he soon had to get back to work.
Being at Welles as a kid really helped me grow as a child and now again they have helped me mature as a young adult. Being able to interview Mario about his experiences with the park district as well as what he has experienced with other teens participating in service work was elating. Through this service I feel Welles Park and GCE have again brought up my level of autonomy and gratitude. Oh and I learned that there is open gym every sunday at Welles for me and my friends to play basketball of course.
Mario Ortiz- Welles Park attendant
What’s your favorite park about working for the park districts?
The activities the offer the kids here. They have basketball, football, baseball softball and so many other activities. It really gives kids the exercise they need in a safe and friendly environment.
How Important do you believe teens participating in service work outside of school is?
It is extremely important I believe. It teaches teens the qualities of responsibility and a will to pursue something for the greater good. It also puts them around kids younger than them while working for the park districts, helping them improve their communication skills with young children.
What value have you experienced from having people come here to help out do service for the park?
Just being able to see kids interact with one another. I love when I see teens value their time to goof around and have fun but still have the self control and maturity to know when it’s time to go back to work and work productively.