When Paul Bloom received his LLI stipend of $500, the first thing he did was sign it over to the Ascension Food Pantry, where he volunteers in New York City. Paul, who is a senior at Bard High School Early College in Manhattan, learned about the stipend for young people working at unpaid internships when he spent time at the Bard Graduate Center’s Lab for Teen Thinkers. That time, he says, “helped me understand the intricacies of our society’s emotions and cultures, and gave me the skills and perspective that I needed to effectively support those around me.”
Effects of COVID-19
Paul has volunteered at the pantry for the last four years. He found the efforts to be significantly different this year because of the pandemic. The demand increased by about 400% while fewer people were able to donate and volunteer, he notes. “I was glad to be working with other people who cared as much as I did about the community. It was different in many ways, but the spirit of compassion stayed.”
When Paul applied for the grant, he made it clear that he would donate it to the food pantry and homeless shelter because of the empathy he felt for those experiencing food insecurity during the pandemic. Everybody falls in life, he says, but empathy allows us to get back up and be better than we were. “It is impossible to be a positive force on the world without empathy.” Robin Klueber, the director of the food pantry, adds, “his donating his stipend from LLI demonstrates a sense of not only charity but emotional maturity and a strong sense of community responsibility.”
Paul says his life’s goal is to help people live healthier, more comfortable lives, which he hopes to accomplish professionally through biomedical research. And he will continue with his volunteering efforts and donations. “This is only just the start of money I hope to give to this pantry and to every other organization that helps people survive who are less fortunate than I.” He is on the road to making a continuous difference in the civic life of his community.