Twenty minutes before the bus was scheduled to depart from IU, I realized it was time to get ready. I threw three changes of clothes and the necessary toiletries in a backpack, grabbed my laptop, and ran out to catch the bus. I found my place among familiar, friendly faces and settled in for the 14 hour ride. We entertained each other with stories, watched movies, and tried to catch some sleep. Next thing I knew, we were pulling up in front of TEAM Academy.
Classes were in session, so we quietly dropped off our luggage in a hallway and headed downtown. Writing partners of TEAM students stayed behind in order to spend some quality time with their partners and visit their Newark homes. The rest of us split up into two groups downtown: a small group went to the Newark Collegiate Academy (TEAM’s preparatory high school) in order to observe the school and help with a drama project while the remaining participants enjoyed lunch at a local eatery of their choice and gathered at the TEAM Schools Administrative Building for a panel presentation. At the presentation, we listened to a motivational story about a student who has reached previously unforeseeable heights of success because of the unique structure of the TEAM program and the dedication of its diligent teachers.
Around 2:00 pm, we returned to TEAM Academy for assorted activities, including team meetings, interviews, showers, homework, and creation of a bulletin board answering TEAM Academy students’ questions about college. I spent the time managing the various social media of Books & Beyond: our first day yielded 83 Facebook pictures, two blog posts, two articles for our newsletter Amakuru, and several tweets. I was charmed by the dedication of our volunteers; everybody seemed to be passionately committed to completing not only their own projects but also helping others wherever help was needed.
After touring the building and reviewing our weekend goals, we gathered in the gym (which also serves as the cafeteria and the auditorium) for an Italian dinner featuring salad, garlic knots, tortellini Alfredo, and baked ziti. Dinner was followed by an inspirational story from our student director Caitlin Ryan, who reminded us what an important role this project can play in the lives of people from different walks of life. After eating cake in celebration of the weekend birthdays of four of our members, teams held individual meetings while the writing partners brainstormed with our strategic planner Caleb Kurowski.
As many of our volunteers prepared for bed, five TEAM boys and five IU men met in the gym for an important community building exercise: basketball! Playing in thermal socks, hiking boots, jeans, and/or brown leather slippers, we dribbled, passed, and dunked our way to new level of camaraderie while a few fellow project members cheered us on. After a quick shower, I joined some friends watching the comedy show How I Met Your Mother. The day ahead was to be fun, demanding and action-packed as always, so I soon drifted off to a much-needed sleep.