Thanks for tuning into the first official blog post for DukeEngage in San Francisco! My name is Kaitlin and I am a rising senior and a neuroscience major at Duke. I am so excited to be on this amazing trip, especially because we still have 6 and a half weeks to go! Even though we’ve been here less than two weeks, a LOT has happened. We arrived in San Francisco on Thursday June 4th, and spent the first few days exploring the city, preparing for our internships, and starting to get to know each other and ourselves a little bit better. Even though all seven of us in the program are rising seniors, most of us didn’t know each other very well, and you would’t believe how tight we are now after only a couple of weeks. 🙂 I truly could not have asked for better peers to share this experience with; this group is open, diverse, respectful, intelligent, and hilarious. I won’t go into boring details but I can tell you we have had a lot of laughs. 🙂 Our fearless leader Sasha has been both an effective leader and a genuine friend, and we are very lucky to have her here with us!
Now I’m sure you’re wondering by this time about the actual work we’ve been doing. Jose, Maurice, Stephanie, Ji-Ho and I are all working at Larkin Street Youth Services doing a wide variety of things. Larkin Street works with homeless and at risk youth ages 12-24 to find them stable housing, employment, education, health services, etc, but most importantly is an invaluable support network for young people to help develop life skills and confidence. I’m sure you will get to hear about everyone’s personal experiences over the next few weeks, but today I’ll tell you a little bit more specifically about my projects. I am working full time at Larkin Street Academy’s Art Program, specifically with musicians. Every year, they put on a huge talent showcase, and I arrived just in time to see auditions and work directly with youth to prepare for the show. I will help coach about 15 musicians in voice, guitar, piano, music theory, songwriting, and arranging before the show in August. While I am probably not qualified to do any of that stuff, I really can’t tell you how rewarding it has been so far. For one, its FUN, which is incredible, because I could easily have ended up doing something valuable but boring, but instead I get to do a job that the art program is in great need of and do something that challenges me in so many awesome ways. I’m simultaneously very excited and nervous for the coming weeks.
Working with youth who are homeless has made me reevaluate my perceptions on what it means to be homeless and what it means to be strong and successful. For one, there is no profile on what a homeless young person looks like. The youth I’ve met come from diverse backgrounds and all got here for different reasons. They all want different things, and have very different personalities. Most of all, the kids I have met are NOT weak. On their website and at events, Larkin Street frequently shares a few sob stories (perhaps to draw support of donors), but these stories can sometimes make me forget that just because someone has been homeless doesn’t mean he or she is simply a victim, or someone to pity. In fact, these kids (I call them kids even though many if not most of them are older than me) inspire me to work harder and be better. They’re so cool! At Duke and at home, it can be easy to forget how vastly different people are, because we all sort of play into a mold of some sorts. But at Larkin, people aren’t like that. No one is trying to be something they aren’t or try and fit into a particular ideal. They just are, and everybody just does them. It’s very hard to explain. I have met such an array of inspiring, wacky, driven, and fascinating people in only eight days of work. I am so grateful to them for letting me play just a small role in their lives, because they will certainly leave an impact on me.