Doing Something

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Doing Something

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We interviewed the Talon’s very own Michael Borger about one of Graded’s newest community service activities.

Why don’t start by briefly telling about yourself?

Well, my name’s Michael, and I was born here in São Paulo. When I was one year-old, I moved to New Jersey and lived in a secluded town in upper-class surburbia. There, I didn’t have many friends, so I had to develop a voice for myself so I could speak up when the situation arose. Because I didn’t have many friends, I turned to academics and spent my time on schoolwork and extracurriculars. In Demarest, the town, I discovered my love for extracurriculars and my passion for community service.

Right before seventh grade, I learned I was moving back to São Paulo. I was nervous, apprehensive that I wouldn’t make any friends, but excited for the new opportunities and thrilled to leave my comfort zone. At Graded, I befriended people almost instantly, making friends with people in my grade and others, and I knew Graded would be much better than where I had been prior. In seventh grade, I went on to create a club called POWER (Protectors of Wildlife and Environmental Representatives), which was essentially a GIN group for the middle school before it even had one. In this club, I noticed I loved taking action and leading projects for social good. In eighth grade, the club was disbanded and replaced by GIN, but it’s all about the cause and the determination to make a change.

When I started high school, I joined over ten clubs and have remained dedicated to most of them. I’m the Chief-Branding Officer of GEE (Graded Entrepreneurial Enterprise), which focuses on fundraising for different causes and community service projects. Currently, I’m the Entertainment Editor for the Talon, the online magazine you are reading right now, and I love it. After preparing weekly lessons and activities,I wake up Saturday mornings at 8:30 a.m. to teach English for two hours or so as a FALA (Friendship and Language Acquisition) teacher. Additionally, I’m a leader for HACIA Democracy, a club focusing on problems facing the Americas and helping members become the best diplomatic delegates they can be. I’m captain and club leader for Knowledge Bowl, member of Speak Up and the Debate Club, a GMT tutor who has a wonderful eighth grade tutee, a partial delegate for Model United Nations, and a Varsity Volleyball player.

Lastly of course, I’m a founder and leader of the Graded Do Something Club, which I affectionately refer to as my “baby.” I love the not-for-profit, dosomething.org, that inspired the activity. I actually have been involved in a couple of its youth advisory councils (YAC’s), working with the College Board on revising the SAT. As well, I worked at the Do Something headquarters in New York City over the summer as a marketing intern, learning all about current trends, social media, and general action-taking. As you can see, I love community service, and I hope to one day study International Relations with a concentration on Human Rights. Also, I’m obsessed with green tea (random non-sequitur).

When did you first hear about Do Something?

I first heard about Do Something, the not-for-profit, when I was researching creative project ideas for another community service group. I stumbled on dosomething.org, and I thought to myself: “Wow, this is different and actually ‘doing something.’”

What led you to get so involved?

After months of frustration with some community service clubs where I tried to suggest some ideas, but I felt they were never heard, I figured, why not bring Do Something to Graded? I know I’m not the only student who wants to make a difference, but feels like they can’t because they feel stifled or alienated by hierarchies or bureaucracies or flat-out rejection from others. I shifted the paradigm by creating the club, emphasizing action and collaboration rather than discussion.

In your opinion what differentiates Do Something from other not-for-profits?

The actual not-for-profit is incredible. It’s modern and relevant. It’s run by staff who genuinely care about young people and who believe in their power and notice that young people want to make a difference, unlike what many people think of our generation. That’s something you don’t find in many not-for-profits directed at teens today. Dosomething.org has over 2,9 milliion members, meaning it’s one of the largest not-for-profits for young people and social change, and if I’m not mistaken, it’s actually the largest of its kind in the world.

I remember when I went to work at the office this summer, the place was relaxed with comfortable couches, stand-up desks, and a kitchen with an all-you-can-drink coffee machine. There was a corner dedicated to chilling, and that convinced me almost immediately that’s where I want to work when I’m older. Not to mention, the technology staff worked tirelessly to ensure Do Something’s website was working unimpeded while the campaigns creators drafted new proposals and calls-to-action on issues where tangible solutions could be implemented to better lives.

Yet, not one staff member was rude to me or laughed at my age or my not-for-profit inexperience. They were all incredibly sweet and approachable. I will never forget when Nancy Lublin―the CEO-also known as the “Chief Old Person”―walked out of a meeting and instead of going straight to her Hello Kitty-adorned desk, stopped in front of me as I was seated on a blue velvet couch and greeted me with a warm smile. One of the most powerful people in the not-for-profit world stopped her daily routines to say hello, ask my name, where I live, and how I was enjoying my time at Do Something.

Could you tell us about the current state of the Graded branch of Do Something? What have students accomplished? What are they currently doing?

The Do Something club at Graded is currently in its second year and running strong. It has over twenty-five members, working on three different projects. We’ve worked on two main projects in the past: the “R U OK?” Day first semester and the Lower School Toy Drive second. The “R U OK?” Day was great, with over 110 candy grams sold while the LS Toy Drive was astonishingly successful, thanks for the contributions and participation from Lower School students. We collected over 180 kilograms of toys, including even a bicycle, a scooter, and hundreds of dolls, to donate to Caritas, albeit our original goal was twenty items, not even twenty kilos. The kids surpassed our expectations, and club members were thrilled to see their enthusiasm.

This semester, the club has been working on a food drive that it hopes to complete by December, a compost project with the middle school GIN group, which is why high school students and teachers received surveys regarding trash and recycling at Graded, and a “Take What You Need” campaign. In sum, Do Something is doing great, and I look forward to seeing the projects come together.

When does the Do Something club meet?

The club meetings are on Mondays during lunch, so there’s nothing stopping anyone who wants to join and do something from signing up!

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