Maalik Dunkley, ’21 Interns with the East Harlem Tutorial Program, New York City, NY 2/3

The Elements of Planning

In my internship, I was also amazed to see that most of the staff of the East Harlem Tutorial Program is on the same page. I was confused on how that was possible. Despite some discrepancies, they all dutifully worked towards the constructive goals of EHTP.

I first thought that this was the result of an extremely inventive technique and I hoped to uncover EHTP’s secret. However, it was simply the result of careful planning and clarity.

On April 30th, 2018 during the championship match of the Intramural League, I dislocated my ankle. This unfortunate accident forced me into an uncomfortable situation. Despite being injured, I still wanted to complete my internship. So, I would have to commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan every day on crutches. Before clocking in at my worksite, I had to endeavor New York City’s subways during rush hour vulnerable and with extra mass. A simple commute became lengthy trials to find the “right path”.

Injured and on my way to work!

The “right path” involved knowing simple things like the train schedule and which car I needed to board to making more meticulous acknowledgements like which seats are usually empty on the train, which train cars are usually less crowded, where should I stand to enter first on the train, factor the time it would take me to walk with crutches to the train station, which stops do most people get off, how long would I have to wait for another train with more favorable amount of people, and contemplate whether exchanging comfortability for time was worth it. So, my journey to work became a personal example of the effort necessary, the feasibility, and the benefits of thorough planning.

The preparations I made were things I had never considered before when riding the train. Yet, they made my experience more enjoyable and my mission of traveling to work easier for my injured body.

My internship with EHTP taught me more about planning. Elements that seem like tedium are completely necessary. Project planning is extremely important for most careers and especially social work. Careful analysis, drafting, and coherent goals are required to help people. The following actions that I have observed from EHTP, are ones that I will use in my future planning processes.

Firstly, a project must have obvious objectives. I believe that EHTP is incredibly transparent about its goals. They manage to have such transparency because of the saturation of their objective in their work. Aside from having it posted online as their mission statement, I find that all their organizational efforts work towards their goal of educating students and bettering the community. Because of this, the aim of EHTP was never uncertain. EHTP constructs clarity through its use of language. They present what they see, what they want to do, and how they will accomplish it. Partially observing the administrative management in the organization revealed the importance of the assertion of definite statements. What is required and expected should be stated. However, there still is value in a gray area. With ETHP, I believe their clarity creates a level of intimacy between the organization and staff and the target community. Staff, volunteers, and members of the community can conclude the duty and the purpose of the organization from its stated goals. Subsequently, the organization allows itself to be held accountable. The staff and volunteers also learn what is expected of them. I believe such clarity and rigidity eventually attracts people who are committed to achieving the mission of the organization which allows it to be better at its job.

A project must also always be available for review. ETHP was able to function since 1954 in East Harlem because it evolved. I already wrote about adaptability and its importance in my previous blog post. Here I want to explore how it is managed. EHTP is able to change its practices and statements through these habitual meetings. Something I admired during my internship was the intentionality behind these meetings. The appropriate selflessness of EHTP was also described earlier and the way they conduct meetings illustrates this. They always have something to accomplish, they are always willing to improve, and they get criticism from multiple places. The admission of imperfection allows the organization to do more good works. Throughout the process, their priority on clarity remains.

The final thing I noted was the importance of the visibility of the implementation of ideas. In this roundabout conclusion, I learned that the mission that is made clear and that is reviewed must be apparent to the public. It must be proved through the actions of the organization. Therefore, the implementation of a project also needs to be planned. The way it is done and how it might affect the community must be considered in this process. Along with them seeing it, we must ensure that the target community interprets our goals, our actions, and the changes that we make as we want them to. This may seem vain or disingenuous, however, I see this as another instance of establishing that the work of the social organization is done for the target community. EHTP does a good job exhibiting their plans in action while also showing its direct relationship and benefit to East Harlem. Members don’t only see their work but also have the chance to interact with it. EHTP shows its goals for its community through its numerous interpersonal programs—like the summer program, the festivities and care of its scholars, the implementation of East Harlem’s heroes and culture in its academia and even in elements of its building, and its thorough anti-racism plan for programs, along with others I’m sure I was not exposed to because the short period I was there.

EHTP celebrates its High School graduates.

Adjacent to the logistical things I learned from my internship, an equally important thing I learned about is, possibility. Often social work is ignored or discredited because it may seem impossible or futile to help the underprivileged. Even I began to believe this. The process of distributing true service was deemed too complex. Service had too many limitations because of the inequitable world we live in. Compromise and submission were inevitable and integral. However, the steadfastness of the East Harlem Tutorial Program and their successes proved otherwise. Practices that people are convinced are too radical and impractical are possible. I realized the deceit that is created by claims of impracticality. Things that should be simple and should be required in social work like accountability, amenability, and sacrifice are made superfluous by detractors. Social work, by extension any work, can exist without the resignation of morality. It should be a priority even considering the effort needed. Helping people in significant ways is possible and those who convince us otherwise are wrong.

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