My First Adventure as a Catholic Charities Summer Intern

Posted on July 5, 2018 by Catholic Charities Admin  |  Share

In a City of Individuals, a Neighborhood Emphasizes Community

By Molly Lankisch

Catholic Charities NY Summer Intern Writer & Photographer

On my first adventure in New York City as Catholic Charities NY summer intern, I took the subway on the hot summer Saturday of June 23rd to Washington Heights to witness as volunteers and students together painted murals at La Plaza Beacon, a program sponsored by the Catholic Charities division Alianza Domicana that helps children thrive in the struggling community of Washington Heights. Each mural sends out a unique message to the community whether it’s to do your homework, avoid smoking, take care of the environment or honor your heritage.

A Long Way from Cincinnati 

It was a long way from my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio yet in some ways I felt right at home. This is largely because, as a former tutor and camp counselor, I have already seen the results of children having an outlet outside of their home whether it’s academic or social. They become happier individuals who develop great confidence in themselves and their studies.  I’ve always tried to share my love for education with children since my mother always said that “your education is the one thing that no one can ever take away from you.” La Plaza Beacon is giving these children the same outlet and showing them their unlimited potential. While living in a city that focuses so much on individualism, I found it absolutely wonderful this past weekend to witness a community come together for a great cause.

Transformation from Receiving to Giving Back

When I arrived at the center, I was instantly welcomed by a group of seven volunteers who were actively refurbishing two murals in front of me with colorful trays of various paints. The volunteers were from the Junior Board, a Catholic Charities NY organization of young New Yorkers that cultivates future leaders through philanthropic and fun activities. One Junior Board volunteer, Jennifer, said that as a teen she was a member of La Plaza Beacon’s dance club.  She credits this experience for her success now as a young adult and enthusiasm giving back to Catholic Charities.

Murals Where Graffiti Once Ruled

I couldn’t wait to learn more about the center and the great history behind the beautiful arrangement of vibrant murals that surrounded the perimeter. Mr. Leonardo Dominguez, the director of La Plaza Beacon School, met with me to discuss the mission at La Plaza Beacon and how the murals became a significant component of the center.

Mr. Dominguez explained thatthe center’s mission has always been to give the children in the community a secure place to study, grow, have fun and learn how to be a better person in the world. However, the presence of graffiti and vandalism on school grounds became a reoccurring issue during the 1990s. The members of La Plaza Beacon combatted this issue and reaffirmed their center as a safe space for children by creating these murals. The murals restored during my visit commemorate famous members of the Dominican Republic community including Joseito Mateo and Millie Quezada, the King and Queen of the Merengue as well as Angel Miró Andujar, a well-known drummer, and singer. I felt immensely honored to be a part of this event and to meet such devoted individuals.

With the volunteers and dedicated members of La Plaza Beacon, I know that these children in the community have a bright future ahead of them and the messages within the murals will live on for years to come.

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