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Reflections from Darae

I felt like it was the first year all over again. The Peer Leader title, although fulfilled the past year, felt all too foreign to me again. It was new circumstances with Covid, masks, no residential program, and a whole set of new girls. As usual to start the program off we instilled the rules of the space and did team bonding. We talked and learned more about each other. We made TikToks to get to know each other better, played games, partnered together on projects, and ate lunch together. It was all the same ideas of the residential program just without the residential part and with 6ft of distance. I would be lying if I said being the Peer Leader was a walk in the park. There were many new challenges that would get in the way of stepping into my role and being the leader I wished to be, but I still hold that title close to my heart. It has allowed me to really grow into my responsibilities so that I can be an even better leader every year.

Every morning the bus came to pick us up and take us to the HomeWorks space. We all had a desk with our name somewhere around it, our belongings, and a laptop for our school day. The mornings were mostly quiet—all of us working and in our own little worlds during school. Every day at 12 we would eat lunch together, and depending on the weather, lunch would be inside or outside in the grassy area behind the space. We would all sit on our yoga mats when the weather was nice and eat while listening to music followed by playing games. During the break after lunch the girls would usually go play and talk in the playground.

Toward the end of the day we would have programming. Programming was always interesting and different. We had lessons on college panels, spirituality, gender, sexuality, leadership, healthy relationships and many other things. We participated in yoga lessons, dance classes led by college students, and book panels. I think my favorite programming had to be working with Grounds for Sculpture. Working with Grounds for Sculpture gave us a chance to look at art and make our own art, and it was just overall a beautiful place to learn about beautiful things. There were peacocks all around which were amazing to look at while the sun lit up the bright colors of their tails every time they spread them. If you asked me it was the most relaxing place that you could be in New Jersey.

We gained a lot from the year but one of the best things we received was the Give Back scholarship. We were all given the opportunity to have a 4 year scholarship to 7 different schools in New Jersey. This scholarship would pay for room and board as well as tuition. I know that the opportunity meant everything to me as well as the rest of the girls who applied. The application process wasn't hard at all and HomeWorks was there to help us with every step of the process alongside Give Something Back. Not everyone has the chance to go to college and the fact that we have the opportunity to go and money not be a barrier is something that I am so grateful for. Covid got in the way of many things but this year at HomeWorks was still a blessing that I was happy to have.

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