Resident Advisers at John Jay Hall are hoping their school supplies drive will make a big difference at a local school.
Due to citywide budget cuts, Public School 125, located on 123rd Street between Amsterdam and Morningside avenues, has no funding for arts programs or arts teachers—a gap that student group Artists Reaching Out has worked to fill with weekly arts classes. But many classrooms still lack basic school supplies, an issue that inspired several John Jay RAs to launch the drive this month in conjunction with ARO.
“We noticed that a lot of the classrooms just don’t have the school supplies that are at the other institution we teach at,” Rebecca Clark, CC ’13, an ARO co-coordinator and John Jay RA, said, referring to Future Leaders Institute, a charter school at 122nd Street and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard. Some PS 125 classrooms don’t even have a good set of markers, she said.
Clark now has four bags in her dorm room full of supplies, including crayons, markers, paper, pens, glue, tape, Post-it notes, binders, and a stapler.
“I didn’t think people were going to bring that many supplies, but we got a good amount,” Kendall Tucker, CC ’14 and a John Jay RA, said. “People got creative with the stuff they brought.”
Clark said she will deliver what she has now to PS 125 during ARO’s visit this Friday, and the rest will be brought over next Friday.
In addition to leaving out boxes for students to drop off supplies, RAs on six John Jay floors held events that required a donation of supplies for admission—including a Thanksgiving dinner, a Mario Kart tournament, and, on Clark’s floor, a dance party.
“We had a lot of fun,” Clark said. About a quarter of floor 14 showed up—including the resident ballroom dancer, who taught everyone how to waltz.
Tucker and floor six held a poker tournament for which school supplies were the buy-in, and almost half the floor residents came.
“It may have to do more with how they like poker than giving, but I think it was a great event,” Tucker said.
Mihir Bhaskar, CC ’15 and the tournament winner, agreed.
“I think it’s a great idea helping public schools,” Bhaskar said. “I’ve had experience with some pretty bad public schools—I went to a California public school and we were underfunded, too.”
Bhaskar said his poker triumph was “pretty satisfying.”
“A lot of people didn’t know how to play, and it would have been embarrassing to have lost,” he said.
Clark said that one of the project’s strengths was that “each RA could tailor it to each floor’s needs for programming and at the same time donate to the cause.” RAs are required to do a community service event each semester and, after Clark suggested the project, several RAs at John Jay decided to work together to support PS 125.
“It’s going to make a much bigger impact than if one floor did this, another floor something else,” Tucker said.
Tucker said she liked that the community service project helped kids in the neighborhood.
“It’s nice to remind people at Columbia that there’s need outside the Columbia bubble and that we can give back to Morningside Heights and the wider community,” she said. “We have a lot of privileges here, and I think it’s easy to forget that people elsewhere don’t.”
Clark said that ARO’s lessons at PS 125 have been going well in the little more than a month since they’ve started. The Friday before Thanksgiving, students made turkeys, and, in an additional after-school program, ARO members helped students prepare for their winter pageant.
In the long term, Clark said the supply drive would help the school overcome the budget cuts.
“It’s going to make a huge difference at PS 125,” Clark said.