PS Please Review

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PS Please Review

Postby LisaLaw » Fri Oct 14, 2011 9:22 pm

Arms folded, eyes rolled, lips pursed—it was clear that this group of twelve to sixteen year old girls would be some of the toughest critics and the most difficult challenge that I had faced thus far. As we walked into the room each of us was hoping to be successful, but for me failure simply was not an option. After all, I was the group leader which meant that both my reputation and grade were on the line. Even more importantly was my private claim in the situation. I could not fail these girls; because, as I looked at them, with their troubled home lives and other challenges, reflected in the faces of these girls, from my city, I saw myself, and failing us was simply not an option.
Throughout my college career and for as long as I can recall, I have expressed an interest in helping others. Often this had manifested itself in work geared towards the elderly, the very young, or the infirm; those with whom it is generally accepted that charity work is both necessary and rewarding. However, during my junior year I came to find myself working with a group of people whose underprivileged status is much more debated; those in the prison system.
During the previous semester I had taken on the major responsibility of peer advising a group of freshmen and sophomore students as they participated in research at the university. My responsibilities included organizing by weekly research seminars, grading and assigning journals, and aiding in the research process for my forty-five students. So when it came to my attention that Project Outreach; a course geared towards community service; was looking for peer group leader I was immediately interested. The instructor for the course confirmed that my past peer advising and volunteer work along with my educational background in the social sciences made me an ideal candidate for the position. My duties would be to arrange weekly seminars for a group of students who would visit one of the facilities; I would also be responsible for coordinating transportation and activities, reading reflection journals, and visiting the site with my group each week.
As excited as I was to meet a new group of students and start my volunteer work there remained one small but significant issue, the fact that I knew next to nothing about prisons or those inside. As any good college student knows ignorance is an obstacle that can easily be overcome. For the next week I busied myself with learning as much as I could about prisons, their role in our society, and the justice system before meeting with the instructor to learn more about the specific group that I was to be working with. As it turned out our “prison’s” population was not the hardened criminals from my readings but rather teenage girls who had been convicted of petty crimes or labeled as incorrigible.
Over the next couple of weeks I worked to incorporate information about the specific problems associated with juvenile offenders into our discussions. Our seminars had to be placed into the context of a lecture for all of the prison volunteers with differing topics each week. I worked hard to ensure that each topic was connected back and made relevant to our special population. This task was made more difficult since unlike the other group leaders I had not been a student in the course prior to becoming a group leader. Nor had I possessed a great interest in this particular social issue. Rather than knowing all of the answers I was learning with my group and because of that I shared their apprehensions about what our first meeting would be like.
Finally, the day came that everything was in order for us to begin our visits. We had spent almost two weeks imagining what these girls would be like. Our fears were intensified by the daunting list of items that we were prohibited from bring, such as small scissors, nail polish, and anything that could potentially be used as a weapon. The girls in my group worried most that these young women would be so different from them that there would be no way to connect. I worried that I would lose credibility as my group can to associate me more with these girls than with the polished persona that I had perfected over the past three years. More importantly I was afraid that confronting the parallel path my life could have taken would be too much for me to handle.
Despite our great pains at concealing our private fears and worries these teenagers were able to size us up in an instance. They were immediately hostile to us as yet another group of outsiders wanting to assuage some of the guilt of their own privileged lives by working with the less fortunate. Immediately they bombarded us with questions: why were we there, where were we from, what benefits did we receive for coming. They were resistant to our activity about college planning and unwilling to open up to us. We had come there to assess and assist, however when confronted with image our own insecurities and snobbery it was evident that perhaps it was not these girls that needed to be fixed.
After that evening’s epic failure I spent the weekend looking for way to address some of the stereotypes that had sunk our first attempt to make a connection. That week in seminar I challenged my group and myself to think critically and realistically about what we hoped to accomplish over the semester for ourselves and the girls. The next week we returned to site with a much simpler plan, instead of structured activities we talked to them honestly about our goals and their expectations of us. This simple plan worked, the girls admired our sincerity and begin to open up. By the end of our fifteen week semester we no longer walked into the hostile environment that we had encountered on our first visit. The atmosphere was much more relaxed for all involved. On the last day some of the girls at the group home cried and recited poems about the difference that we had made in their lives. Similarly there was a change in my group no longer were they apprehensive about working with the less fortunate nor did they consider these girls to be all too different from themselves., many thanked me and a few expressed interest in becoming a group leader the next year.
My own change was equally as profound. By opening up to our group population I can to accept that being from an impoverished background in an impoverished city was not something that I needed to hide. In fact, I became proud of the fact that I was able to overcome so many obstacles and still use my background to connect with others struggling to do the same. I also developed an interest for the study of laws and the courts and came to appreciate how my educational and personal focus on the individual added to an area that too often focuses on narrow and rigid concepts. This experience challenged me yet it was a challenged that was worthwhile and well accepted. I found that not only did I enjoy and eventually flourish at teaching and leading but also that I welcomed the chance to apply lessons about social inequality, diversity, and acceptance to the real world. In addition I found myself fascinated the readings and guest speakers on the structure of the legal system and the social factors that lead individuals to be labeled as prisoners. This experience had a major impact on my decision to pursue a law career and the development of the skills necessary to succeed in a legal education.
Last edited by LisaLaw on Tue Oct 18, 2011 11:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: PS Please Review

Postby rylxvii » Fri Oct 14, 2011 11:42 pm

the opening paragraph grabs attention at first, but i had no idea who you were talking about 3~4 paragraphs down. some grammar issues and typos in there, and they distracted me enough not to make a fair assessment of your ps. I don't know if i felt engaged enough to sense your "challenges;" something you might need to emphasize on. overall, i thought the topic choice was interesting and it has a lot of potential.

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Re: PS Please Review

Postby cutecarmel » Sun Oct 16, 2011 10:19 pm

I agree with the other poster. You started off really strong and then you kind of lost the strength. In my opinion it is unnecessary to write about why you were chosen and how it didn't fit in with your class schedule etc. In other words, you can probably delete most of paragraphs 2-4.

I would keep the first paragraph, then focus more on the results of the experience. What did you learn? How did you help others?

I would also talke more about why law school could help you help juveniles like this. Are you interested in juvenile law? family law? advocacy? Left as it is it seems like you could achieve the same goal being a police officer or something. Why law school?

Overall, I like it. Good luck

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Re: PS Please Review

Postby LisaLaw » Tue Oct 18, 2011 10:03 pm

Thank you both for your reply they really helped me with my 2nd draft revisions.

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Re: PS Please Review

Postby powerscore » Tue Oct 18, 2011 10:41 pm

I agree as well that your first paragraph was very captivating and interesting, but you lost me later on. I think that you need to trim it down, right now it is at about four spaces double spaced. I don't know what schools you are applying to, but in general a PS should be about two to three pages double spaced, some schools limit you to two only. You might want to think about what is truly important and cut the rest, that will also add clarity and focus.

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