It’s the start of the fall semester. You recently said goodbye to friends, family, and maybe even your pets. Now you’re in New York on your own – just like that Taylor Swift song, “Never Grow Up.” So you might be wondering, what now?
You’re drawn to all the aesthetic pursuits New York has to offer, whether it’s taking in the view from the High Line or tucking into a giant cupcake from Magnolia Bakery. It’s the setting for so many romantic comedies and so many hit stories. It’s easy to romanticize life here, but that can obscure the complexity of the issues New York natives face.
In the neighborhoods where you live now, social problems are becoming more and more intense. The Coalition for the Homeless reports that a record number of homeless people died in 2021. Encore, a community service organization providing care to New York’s elderly population, found that about 425,000 of the city’s 1.73 million seniors are food insecure and about 700,000 live alone.
In addition, the city generates more than 14 million tons of waste each year. With all the trash on the streets after move-in day, NYU students are definitely helping out. These stats aren’t just in the news anymore, they’re surrounding our dorms and apartments.
Ignorance is not bliss. There’s a fine line between romanticizing the city and being blind to its weak points. We need to be open to seeing the perspective of the homeless, the elderly and even fellow students from the city or from a disadvantaged socio-economic background.
NYU offers easy ways to get involved in community service in New York. For my part, I participated in the university’s pre-Welcome Week program, Project Outreach. Each day we participated in a service project targeting a different social issue: food deserts, homelessness, mental health and climate change, to name a few.
Organizations beyond Project Outreach are also easy to get involved. Here are a few groups that are always looking for more volunteers.