Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Night to Remember

The end of the program began with class on Friday morning. Friday was the day that we were going to present the projects we had been working on to our groups, and it was to be a short day. I got up for breakfast for what would be the last time, a meal during which myself and all of my friends were all going over our presentations and asking each other for last minute advice. We continued to do this as we made our way to our classroom building, where we waited for our group leaders to arrive and lead us into our small sections. I felt nervous, but it wasn't too bad because I knew my group members would be supportive and probably genuinely interested in what I had to say.

The first presentation we saw was a presentation by two people from different discussion groups, about the LGBTQ+ movement in Philadelphia. Their project involved surveying random people they met at Penn bookstore, and the footage from these mini-interviews made the presentation unique. I was the first one to present from my group alone, but I was almost glad that I could get it out of the way so that I could be more engaged in what my fellow students were presenting about. My presentation went smoothly, there were no technological issues and I was perfectly coherent. However, my group members set a very high bar! I'm also glad that I went first so that I didn't have to follow any of them.

One of the highlights of the presentations was a poem by my classmate Omar, a spoken word piece he wrote about the media in the United States. I had no idea that he was so into poetry, or how talented he is! His delivery was very well paced and he put a lot of emotion into what he was saying, which made me pay that much more attention to his message. The poem was a refresher from all of the power points that we saw during the day. Of course, the power points were interesting too! I particularly enjoyed a photo series by my group member Amina, who set out to tell the stories of undocumented immigrants in the United States, and explore a hypothetical reality of our country without undocumented immigrants. The pictures she took explained the struggles that undocumented immigrants face when they come to America and all of the ways that they contribute to American society. The photos themselves were very creative, and I liked the way that Amina used individual stories to introduce us to larger topics, such as sexual assault and below minimum-wage pay.

By lunchtime, we were mostly done with presentations, and we took a break to go upstairs to the main classroom and eat pizza. In honor of our last day, the program had bought us lunch. We ate together with the other groups, but we eventually had to pop back down to our group's classroom for one final presentation. There was also another member of our group who had teamed up with a member of another group, so our two groups came together to see their presentation as well. This was another good one, as it was aimed at finding a solution to low achievement in Chicago Schools. They had come up with the idea of an app that gave kids incentive to get good grades by rewarding them with coupons and rewards points for different businesses. This was the only presentation that I saw that not only explored a problem within our society, but came up with a concrete idea about how it could be remedied. Even cooler was how the boys who created the app actually intended to implement it. They weren't just talking the talk, they were going to go out there and change something.

All of the groups having gone through all of their presentations, we stayed in class for the next hour or two doing written and verbal evaluations of the course and the impact it had had on us. We did talk about little changes that could be made, but in the end we all agreed that it had been a valuable experience. Of course, we also made time to get a group shot and exchange contact information. At the end of it all, we had a little graduation ceremony. Professor Hanson called each of us to the front of the from and gave us certificates to recognize our participation of the course. After that, we were free to go, but I lingered a little bit longer than I was obligated to to say goodbye to people. I'm sure I'll be crossing paths with many of them in the future, since we're all passionate about many of the same things, but it was pretty sad regardless.

Once the classroom had mostly cleared out, I left as well, and went back to the quad for a while. Jana, Sehar, Reva, Sam, Jack and I were going out to Pod, the same sushi restaurant I had gone to nearly two weeks before with Jana's father, for our last dinner. We had about two hours to kill before our reservation, however, so we went to the lounge in my building and watched a movie while we got ready. Pod isn't that fancy, but we thought that we might as well look nice on our last night together. While we were fixing ourselves up, we said goodbye to Lizzy, who was leaving early. This was my first parting with one of my close friends, and it was very emotional, but I had to push past it so that I could enjoy the rest of the night. Our reservation was at 7, so we started walking at 6:40.

We were seated at a round table near the back of the restaurant, and we proceeded to have a dinner filled with good food and lots of laughs. It began to hit me just how much I was going to miss these people, many of whom live on the east coast, but I pushed that thought away and decided not to think about it until later.

After a quick stop at the bookstore for one last look at the merchandise they had there, we returned again to the quad. Summer Discovery was hosting a carnival for the last night, but the festivities were partially drowned out by the activities of other programs that were staying in the quad. Determined to squeeze as much fun out of the night as possible, myself and the group I had gone to dinner with wandered around for a few hours trying to find something to do. There wasn't much going on, so we just ended up in one of our rooms playing board games and games on our phone and listening to music. I was satisfied just spending time with the people I had come to care about the most.

At curfew, I went back to my room to finish the daunting task of packing up my things. Although this seemed intimidating at first, I managed to finish this task with relative quickness. I still went to bed at 2 AM, but it could have been worse!

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