Over the past week, I have been making a conscious effort to connect more to the physical environment at my internship and its immediate community. Since most of our participants, workers, and volunteers, occupy the immediate zip codes, understanding this complex community is a goal for me to achieve before the end of this experience.
Alternatives is locates at the corner of West Grand Boulevard and Martin Luther King. As soon as you turn the corner, you’re greeted with a welcoming brick sign that outlines the organization in thick, white letters, The parking lot is packed with cars as soon as business hours begin. As you enter through the main door, the building seems so small. This morning as I sit and write this in the main entrance, I hear the laughter of children and the conversations of the day ahead’s activities. When my supervisor arrives, I journey through a series of doors, each secured by its own key pad. I’ve never been somewhere so secure. Well I guess nowhere else besides the hospital. The prevention services office is such a unique place. A lone, long, black table is at the center of the main room. There are ten chairs around it, perfectly placed: this is where we have our weekly Monday team meetings. To the back of me, countless rows of bins and shelves hold all of the supplies needed for programming throughout the week. Next to this organized disarray, is an industrial sized printer. This printer is honestly so fast. Today I printed 300 sheets of paper for the new youth employment program and it only took 5 minutes! Besides this innovation, the cubicles of the full-time staff and Ameri-Corps members begin. Each is uniquely decorated with personal pictures and girls and crafts and artwork from the girls. I currently overhear a conversation about college readiness. Although the cubicles are designed to foster individual productivity, most people in the room have abandoned their narrowly defined spaces and are collaborating with those around them.
The most interesting setting at AFG is honestly the kitchen. Guarded by a small door, the space is always full of amazing aromas and interesting conversations. Positioned directly next to the new mural that was only finished just this weekend, the kitchen is one of the few places that everyone visits. Whether it be for coffee club, to heat up some homemade menudo, or just to show the new interns how to run the dishwasher, it is always a space in use.
The neighborhood surrounding AFG is at stark contrast to the vibrant activities occurring inside. Besides the church directly up the road, the area immediately around the building seems quiet. Calm is not the right way to describe it but more like still. The most frequent activity comes from the factory-esque business that occupies the space to the left of AFG’s building. The other employees keep mentioning how beautiful and vibrant the city is beyond this immediate space. I hope to explore it once we start getting into the neighborhoods and picking and dropping off the girl’s at their homes.