I am he as you are me and we are all together

These last few weeks I have been exposed to a new side of society, the philanthropic side, that I didn’t really think existed except in the government’s welfare offices, or in the fairy tail lands Disney movies. It seemed like people cared more about cats and dogs than their fellow man. I was beginning to lose faith.

My last co-op at an economic research firm was on the flip side of SIS. Their mission statement: Make a profit. Don’t get me wrong I met lots of nice people while working there, and learned many things that will help me get to the next level in my professional career, but I needed something more wholesome. I truly believe that your work defines who you are as a person. I would rather spend my time working for the empowerment of other people than for the empowerment of a corporation. It just feels better at the end of the day.

This week I had the opportunity to go to a professional development seminar taught by Sport in Society’s very own Jarod Chin. All the YMCA teen directors, and SIS co-ops were there to be educated on violence prevention, and the power of the bystander. Jarod is a great facilitator. I can tell because he hardly ever speaks or comes up with a ground breaking idea. He intentionally steers the conversation one direction, and lets us come up with the epiphanies and examples that are great take-aways.

We have all witnessed a fight in our lifetime. (I know me personally, I saw about one a day in middle school, especially while playing sports). It was usually a fight over a basketball game that escalated into physical violence and punches being thrown. What did the rest of us do while this was happening…? We gathered into a circle and watched, oooooing and ahhhhing as our friends tried to kill each other. Living in a society that glorifies violence as an essential attribute in being macho dilutes every kid that receives Mentoring in Violence Provention (MVP) training. I feel like for every person who sees the real problem in settling arguments with violence there are 10 more that are watching playground fights on youtube, or playing the latest GTA video game. This just makes it harder for those kids, teachers, and YMCA staff members who actually are able to react positively when a fight breaks out, and defuse the situation.

On Thursday night I went to the AltrUHelp event in this swanky building along Marina drive on the wharf. I was with my friend Brett who was a co-op at SIS last cycle. This event was cool. Lots of people had set up tables to explain their non-profits and causes. Brett, Caitlin and I spent the majority of the night meeting other people in the industry, and explaining our experiences at SIS. I was amazed at all the different ideas that people had for their start-ups and non-profits, and the different ways they went about attaining resources they needed in a heavily capital driven society.

Drinking free ‘Gansett, eating free Boloco is every college kid’s dream right? But it was the people I met that stole the spot light in my mind. I now understand how important networking is for my future, and last night i got three business cards (I’m currently ahead in the co-op biz card competition) from people I talked too who were interested in our cause as well as interested in me for future job openings and volunteer opportunities.

It’s funny how you don’t really realize there’s a community around you until you are actively helping the people of the community. Then all of a sudden you meet tons of other people who are also on your side working towards a common goal of economic and racial equality. You also get the chance to interact with the participants who you are trying to reach out to in order to provide support for them. Most people are grateful, friendly, and heedful when you lend them a hand. Sport in Society gets lots of positive feedback for the work they do in the community, and I bet if you asked any employee here they’d say it’s worth it to continue their work. As the weeks go by here, and I attend more meetings, events, and training sessions I get a better sense of how everyone in the community comes together in faith.

By Charlie Pioli


Not Your Everyday Coop…

As a journalism student with a disdain for “real news”, my only viable career options left are in entertainment or sports, and I just don’t see myself following the mundane daily details of the lives of Lady Gaga or Kim Kardashian.  So when I saw the Sport in Society entry on the list of potential places to coop, I jumped at the opportunity, mainly because the word “sport” was in the name.

Truthfully, I didn’t know much, if anything, about Sport in Society when I applied for this coop earlier last semester.  I had read here and there that they were an entity that used sports to advocate social justice, an admirable cause I wholeheartedly supported, but I still wasn’t quite sure what that meant.

Now, almost three full weeks here as a coop, I not only know what Sport in Society is about, but I am now a member of a staff devoted to effecting real change in the world.

Day 1

As the other coops and I walked into the John D. O’Bryant African-American Institute on that crisp January morning, the only thing occupying my mind was a longing for my warm bed.  The 8:30 am start time was a shock to my system, but a steady dose of energy drinks and Rebecca’s coffee woke me up for the long day of training ahead.

Taking part in the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) Institute, I was, for the first time, exposed to the concept of facilitation, or rather, a group discussion format to bring about awareness and understanding on an issue.  Having gone through countless, less than effective presentations throughout middle school and high school on similar subjects, I was taken aback by this new format.

Actually discussing the realities of an issue?  What a simple yet overlooked idea.

The training had a dual purpose: to get us talking about men’s violence against women (the theme of this particular institute) and to train us in facilitating.  After three days of talking, making connections and getting to see (and perform) first hand the type of work that Sport in Society does, I was hooked.

Not Your Everyday Type of Job

Don’t tell my previous employers this, but, for some reason, organizing grocery store carts or spotting weightlifters at the gym never really inspired me.

Sorry Stop and Shop.

But after just three days of the MVP Institute and another week of orientation at the office, I can honestly say, I have never been more excited for an “office” job.  I put that word in quotations because what we do here, specifically as coops at Sport in Society, is anything but ordinary.  Whereas other coops work 9-5, filing papers and slaving away at computer screens, our work as coops is not only more interesting, but will actually have an impact on our community.

For this semester, myself and my fellow student co-workers are assisting in Sport in Society’s three year partnership with the YMCA’s of the Greater Boston area to help them build capacity in order to effectively serve more youths in need.  I am personally going to be working with the Wang in Chinatown as well as the YMCA of West Roxbury, two fantastic locations that I am enthusiastic about partnering with.

Part of the goal of this partnership is to turn these various YMCAs into premier locations where teens and children can find mentors that will positively impact their lives, specifically through the lens of sports.  In my life, the people who have made the biggest positive impressions on me have always been my martial arts family and instructors.  Without the discipline I learned from the arts, the camaraderie from my teams and the leadership shown by my mentors, I’m uncertain as to whether I’d be here writing this entry at all.

Due to my background, I feel personally invested into the work that I will be assisting with at the YMCAs as well as with the various other great projects that Sport in Society has going on.

Whether it’s working directly with those in need, helping to make the YMCAs even better at serving teens and other youths or just doing the everyday work that needs to be done in the office, I am excited and proud to say that these next few months will have a life changing effect on me and, hopefully, the community at large.