Names: Ava and Carolina
Hometown: New York, NY
Circle Start Date: January 2019
What do you do when you’re not running a Ben Franklin Circle and what prompted you to start one?
We are rising seniors at the Nightingale-Bamford School, an independent K-12 girls school in New York City. Carolina participates in basketball and is a co-head for the Latin X club at Nightingale. Ava is a Youth Action Member at the Citizens Committee for Children, and an intern at Council Member Ben Kallos’ district office.
What attracted you to the Circles?
We went to a Ben Franklin Circle information session and sample circle at the 92nd Street Y and that sparked our interest in bringing it to our New York City high school. We went to the information session because:
Ava: I was definitely drawn in by the purpose of the circles and what we were supposed to get out of it.
Carolina: I was attracted to the circle by the virtues. When I initially got the email about the Ben Franklin circles, I didn’t know much about the group but after reading the virtues I knew it was something that I wanted to be a part of. The virtues are at play in our everyday lives but we never really discuss how we can improve ourselves around these topics.
It is a type of civic engagement that we have never experienced or seen before. Each member gets to learn more about themselves and humans in general. As teens, this program is enlightening about some of our typical struggles and relatable for many people. It allows teens to face topics that we usually turn a blind eye to. We think that because of our age, we can’t make a difference in the world just yet, but in these meetings, we face these topics and we are inspired to make ourselves and our society better.
Tell us a little about the composition of your group?
We did a lot of outreach by spreading the word through friends and other connections. We also emailed faculty and students from high schools in New York giving information for the next meeting and details about the purpose of the circle. We have had a large variety of students come to our meetings including people from all grades, different kinds of schools, and people of different races, genders and life experiences.
We definitely advocated and persuaded our friends to join BFC, but there have also been a good amount of kids who we didn’t know from other schools. It is a good balance of people. We have a solid group of about eight members and some people who have come to a few meetings. One of our main goals with this group was to make sure that all people felt comfortable attending despite their differences because we wanted various opinions to be present in our meetings.
How has hosting a Ben Franklin Circle impacted you?
It is interesting as juniors in high school to be the teacher but also learn from the people around you. Hosting a circle has not only helped us be more organized but helped us to look at topics and situations differently by finding unexplored angles and different thought processes that are often ignored or misrepresented in different situations. We try to get to the core of how these values are perceived by society. The average person does not go about their lives thinking about these virtues, so it is a new way to open up your own mind. We have gained a lot of mutual respect for each other and our peers, as well as learning to listen and understand varying opinions.
Which virtue means the most to you personally and why?
Ava: I cannot categorize only one virtue that means the most to me, but I definitely think
that Sincerity, Humility, and Order mean the most because of the different but necessary ways that they play into our society and the way we live our lives.
Carolina: I like Order and Silence the most because those were the conversations that were the
most charged and engaging in our meetings. I like Order because of the role that disorder plays in our lives. Silence is an interesting concept because it is now something that a lot of people undervalue. People always want to be the loudest voice in the room rather than listening to the opinions of others. I believe this has great influence on the present polarization within our government.
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