What was the first gift you gave?:
The first charitable gift that anyone ever gives is love. With respect to gifts of monetary value, it was to the WWF. With respect to time, I’ve volunteered before this instance, but my first real experience of giving myself completely was my Spring Break in Tangelo Park, FL, mentoring students and assisting in classrooms at Tangelo Park Elementary.
Tell me more about Spring Break:
For one week we worked in Tangelo Park Elementary. I was placed in a Kindergarten class where they called me Mr. Marc and with 5th Graders who called me Mr. Lee. I read to the Kindergarten kids and played with them outside. For the 5th graders, we worked inside, but they seemed more keen to ask me questions about my then short and inexperienced life. In the afternoons we met with either Scott Rosen, who funds the efforts of this town, or the folks of the community to hear their stories. One incident I remember them speaking of in particular involved their working toward reducing crime by binding together as a community in a well-supported neighbourhood watch. The experience was an excellent example of the real power of a village raising children.
Who inspires you to give back?:
Anything to benefit the education of those who lack that human right. I come from a family of teachers, so I would say they were most influential. The greatest facet of teaching is that everyone learns. What they choose to learn though is shaped by the circumstances and the community in which the person is surrounded. That is the lesson I myself have been learning thus far in my own journey and coming from a family of teachers has created many learning opportunities. As I reflect on it now, it may just be the source of my love of learning in general. I’m the first science teacher, so my family has been learning from me what that’s like – to think like a scientist.
What motivates you to give?:
Love motivates me in every endeavor. What’s most interesting about working with students has been their journey to overcome their fears. I feel blessed to work with them on and off stage; we just closed a sold-out production of Hamlet & Ophelia this past February. One of my freshmen who had never been on stage before was so nervous and scared, and all of the feelings that don’t really go away, yet by showtime, his work in rehearsal shone. It grew every night, in part because he had worked on taking ownership of his role (and wrote parts of it himself).
I call them the Voiceless because they don’t see themselves as having a voice in the conventional sense. Many consider themselves to be “La Guardia Rejects”, and that attitude lingers in all of their work and their art. I see my journey with them as their educator in both science and performing arts as the opportunity to help their work, and more importantly their art, mean something else to them, an experience so special that they will remember that about themselves instead of the alternatives.
Tell more about about giving to the Voiceless:
It is also what I mean by being motivated by love. Love is the means to open yourselves to an experience. To do that you must of course be there; I’ve only missed 1 day of work so far and that was because I was in the aforementioned show. To be motivated by the love of giving voices to the voiceless, you have to listen. I gave surveys at the beginning of the year about their interests and have shaped my lessons around many those interests, especially the food related ones! Teaching Tectonic Plates with a combination of graham crackers, hummus, saltines, Rice Krispies and cream cheese was an ace idea but I won’t take any credit for it – that was a student suggestion. Finally, for me it’s about meeting them where they are to take them where we can go. For whatever reason they may be scared of science, I understand and sympathise, but there is still work to do to acquire these necessary skills not just for science but for learning, and I find ways for us to get it done. For that, I’ve also relied on the help of my community for fund raising efforts and even seemingly little things (but logistical linchpins) like trip chaperones.
If you could start a nonprofit, what would it be?:
I believe an artist’s purpose is to give of his time and efforts in the service of his fellow man, to challenge him, to elucidate his sense of self and to uplift him toward lofty goals. It is what I strive to do with every waking moment. I want to start multiple charities. The one I choose for this iteration of that question is the creation of a fund to produce and transport work for artists whose countries oppress artistic expression. The main aspect of the fund would be that it offers to give voice to the voiceless. Their stories must also be heard. Listen to your heart. We can always give to any and every need, but there is often within us a deep sense of a need within the world that must be fulfilled. That should be the charity that receives your time or financial investment.