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2023 Summer Member Highlight: Herinah Asaah

Updated: Mar 2

Rinah is a sophomore at UPenn where she majors in Psychology. She served during summer 2023 and now is a mentor with our UPenn Village Mentoring chapter. She has been playing the cello for 8 years, produces and composes music, and enjoys writing and painting. 

Summer 2023 Wrapped: 

Rinah served a group of about 15 children at Lucien E. Blackwell in West Philly. She was on a team with 3 other Summer Enrichment Coordinators and one Youth Service Manager. 

What was the highlight of your service?

Zoo day was such a fun and busy day! It wasn’t a highlight because it was the smoothest-running field trip, but having a small group to tour around the zoo made time for me to really bond with those kids. I had them each tell me a couple of things that they really wanted to see and had the kids lead the tour of the zoo. There was one particular boy in my group who usually had a hard time engaging in programming, but he just shone at the zoo and took the lead on being everyone’s tour guide - he was in his element, so happy and excited! The kids were having such a good time that they were more than happy to comply with the expectations put in place and were staying together as a group being so kind to each other.

What were the challenges you experienced? 

Sometimes it was difficult to get the kids excited about the program activities, particularly because we tried hard to incorporate learning components each week. Our team wanted to do presentations every day to go with the theme, and sometimes they didn’t want to sit down for a long presentation. To get the kids interested and engaged we would start each week by writing and performing a rap about the theme that week! Ultimately they adjusted their approach to meet the kids where they were at. 

Sometimes it was hard to navigate sibling relationships, almost half of our kids came from shared households and conflicts from home would come to programming as well. We did a lot of work to resolve conflict together by helping them top into emotional awareness and begin to process what they were feeling deeper than what was on the surface. The best way to mitigate and resolve behavioral challenges was to actually talk to the kids, take time to truly listen to their perspectives and work through what was going on together.

Are there any notable or special moments you want to share? 

On Fridays we usually had lower attendance and the Free Library would come to Lucien to read books and provide activities that aligned with the books. They offered a Disney Day one day which was held at the police station. There was a big fair with Disney characters, a bouncy castle, food, and even a parrot that could sit on the kids’ shoulders. It was so fun! 

Sometimes we would have free time in the gym and I showed them the game Sharks and Minnows - I had low expectations for how much they would like it (sometimes things just don’t hit with kids, haha!), but they LOVED the game and started asking to play it all the time. They ask for it now at the Village Mentoring program and it warms my heart to have a little legacy with the game I shared with him. 

How would you describe your DREAM experience in a phrase or a few words?

More play than work! All the time, the kids are having fun and being funny - it really didn’t feel like work, even during the times when we needed to be more firm with boundaries. Once the expectations of the summer were established, it felt like I was really able to be fully present with the kids and enjoy the summer together since we all got so comfortable with one another.

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