Medallions Making a Change in Philly

by Lisa Bower

In their 5th and final year of the Crossroads C5 Leaders program, our high school seniors plan their own alternative Spring Break, the C5 Medallions for Change Service Trip. It is a chance to put all of their leadership skills to the test: agreeing on a location, reaching out to local nonprofits for volunteer opportunities, planning the schedule, and fundraising. This year’s destination was Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Nearly 50 percent of the graduating Class of 2018 chose to spend their week giving back, volunteering with such organizations as Cradles to Crayons, the Boys and Girls Club of Philadelphia, the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, St. John’s Hospice, Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, Lutheran Settlement House, and Ahimsa House.

Six-hour road trips might seem like a chore to some people, but they are full of Moana sing-a-longs, Beyoncé dance moves, snack sharing, and laughter. And of course, who doesn’t like to take selfies and Snapchat the George Washington Bridge along the way? In the quiet moments, teens reflected on the task ahead, as well as their time with Crossroads.

Our Leaders had rich conversations about community assets, the power of volunteering and social issues like gentrification, the justice system, and education. Students had the opportunity to fill their afternoons with cultural activities including visiting the famous South Street with its unique shops and restaurants; eating at the historic steak and cheese spot, Ishkabibbles; having photo shoots in front of murals; and racing up and down the Rocky Steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (complete with music). Our Leaders took on important roles throughout the trip – from Leader of the Day and photographer to chef. “My favorite part of the trip was being Leader of the Day. My first year, I was so shy. Thanks to C5 I am out of my shell and learned how to let my voice be heard, to open up,” said Warrell “Mocha” Meade.

While exploring Philly neighborhoods, our teens were charged with a Random Acts of Kindness challenge. Each group of C5 Leaders did something kind for the community. One group gave out free hugs, even hugging construction workers and police officers. Another group gave out water and notes of inspiration, and yet another group helped seniors cross the road, among other projects. “I learned that service isn’t necessarily always working face to face with people. Sometimes you give back in ways and you won’t get the immediate gratification but the work is still important and vital,” said Latisha Wade.

C5 Leaders are taught to raise up the voices of others as well as their own. On the drive to Philadelphia, a group of Medallions discovered that the Justice League NYC was holding a rally to highlight issues with mass incarceration, the prison reform, and the rapper Meek Mill’s case. Students voluntarily woke up at 5 a.m. to stand in the pouring rain to hear speakers and learn more about how the justice system works. Jalen Lee said,

“I learned a lot about the judicial system and the number of homeless people there is in this country. I don’t want to stop helping.”

It wouldn’t be a family road trip without seeing some C5 alumni along the way. Our Medallions had the chance to eat at Bryn Mawr, thanks to Mercedes Aponte (Class of 2014), who is a Posse Scholar at the university. Additionally, our young people had the chance to see Michelle Fleuriot (Class of 2014) who also attends the school. This collision of worlds was surreal for some of the staff, many of whom remember when Mercedes and Michelle visited the school on their Service Trip four years ago. One of our Medallions remarked how inspiring it was to see alumni who had been in their shoes now just a month away from their college graduation. This visit gave our Medallions a glimpse of what their future could be like and motivated them even further to begin the next chapter in their own journey.

The Service Trip gives our teens the chance to share their talents with other communities so they can better understand their own. Crossroads is all about expanding horizons – giving people the chance to see the world and think critically. Our teens feel like anything is possible when they are with their C5 Class. After all, they have spent the last five years learning about themselves, hiking mountains, exploring colleges and careers, and diving deep into social justice.

The Medallions for Change trip is the culmination of our students’ C5 journey, where our Leaders can finally envision themselves taking steps into the future they wish to see—while relying on all of the skills they have gained during their time with Crossroads. Sabrina Lopez said,

“It really made me realize how much I enjoy giving back to a community when I’m with people I enjoy and it’s something that I’m genuinely interested in. I definitely want to continue doing community service in college.”

 

Medallions for Change Service Trip 2018