By Claire Neiberg, English Major / ARYSE Intern
Spring semester of freshman year, I was walking along A-Walk with my friend. I looked down and saw a little flat wooden charm with “BE KIND” painted on it. I picked it up, smiled, and put it in my pocket. My friend told me I needed to leave it for the person it belonged to, but the charm made me happy, and since freshman year was rather miserable, I ignored her.
Flash forward to a few weeks ago when I when I was home on Christmas break cleaning out my many memory boxes. I pulled the charm out of the box it was in, smiled, and flipped it around to see it read: Be a Source of Kindness Wherever You Go 🙂 Alliance for Refugee Youth Support and Education
I swear on my life that I’m not making up this story for a cute, catchy, first-blog of the semester, but I am glad I ignored my friend that day and kept my little charm that now connects me to my internship.
Interestingly enough, this was not the first time I had felt seen or heard by ARSYE prior to being welcomed as an intern. The executive director of ARYSE, Jenna Baron, came to speak to my Social Justice in Educational Setting class in the fall of 2019.
I dug through emails to find the assignment that corresponded with her visit to see what I had learned about ARYSE. What I wrote holds true as ARYSE “… is a program in Pittsburgh that gives refugee children a chance to live a better life. ARYSE recognizes that these children are promised the American dream, but upon their arrival to The United States, this dream now seems far-fetched an unattainable due to the amount of discrimination they face. Volunteers visit local schools and help children realize their full potential.”
I also remember the icebreaker that Jenna presented to our class, which was to tell the class about our name. My middle name is JiangHuang, which was my first and middle name before my parents adopted me from China. Often, people cannot pronounce it, and I don’t really get into what it means.
However, I told my class that JiangHuang means “splendid river.” It means strength and resilience. It’s who I am. Having us do his exercise seemed surface-level enough, but at the end of the icebreaker, I had a better understanding of who my classmates were as people and their backgrounds. It was that simple.
These two experiences taught me two things about ARYSE. That ARYSE values kindness, but as much as they value kindness, they value outreach and building a community of connections. As I continue to work with ARYSE, I strive to be a leader, mentor, and above all, a source of kindness wherever I go.