by Margar Harutyunyan
I have always considered myself a rational person able to see and understand things through an open and unbiased mind. Had I not joined the St. Lawrence Public Interest Corps and worked at Deep Root Center (DRC), I would not have challenged myself and my rational but deceived views about life in America and specifically the North Country.
For your knowledge, I am Margar, I love Hollywood movies, and it has been already two weeks that I am interning at DRC. DRC is a not-for-profit educational organization which encourages young people to experience the world of self-directed learning and provides them a safe space. It also plans and facilitates programs that engage students in various activities. Officially I am an operations assistant at DRC but as it turned out I am also a data and development analyst. I set up databases, crunch numbers to plan and establish development strategies, and provide IT support.
As I mentioned, I love Hollywood movies. I have grown up watching these movies and admiring lights, colors and beauty they publicized. They formed and developed my perspective on how the US is and how people in the US live. These movies left me fascinated, and in my mind the US was the land of prosperity and happiness. This outlook was firm and never notably disputed, even in in my freshman year. My naive view was not even challenged by the statistical facts such that many people in the North Country have one of the lowest standards of living in New York State. It did not capture my attention and make me step away from my ideal judgment to acknowledge the extent of the issue. I did not even see there was an issue until I started my internship.
On the first day of my DRC experience, I listed out my internship objectives and started designing databases for current and past students while talking to people in the office. Our conversation developed to the point where we started talking about the difficulties that communities in the North Country face and how they were represented in DRC. The pattern was not what I always imagined. I learnt about people who are struggling to put bread on their table or pay bills but want to look straight into the eyes of their children, promise them a just and decent future. These people make up considerable proportion of the local population. During this conversation I understood the importance of DRC as an organization which extends the learning opportunities for local students and gives them a chance to concentrate and explore their main interests. DRC accepts all the students interested in homeschooling and provides need-based scholarships. The message of behind this is very clear. DRC wants to develop North Country and support locals. Its educational initiative is rare and challenging to carry out, but in my opinion, it is rare to have organization that is invested in providing education, support and means to others to contribute in society.
While reflecting upon my day, I realized that yellow school buses, nicely decorated school lockers, beautiful houses, well mowed lawns and students driving jeeps in Hollywood movies do not always reflect the reality and the state of well-being throughout the US. My biased views were confronted by the reality imposed on me. At the end of the day, the thing that made me feel good was the fact that I can utilize my abilities for the betterment of DRC and ultimately this community.