As part of our ongoing interview series, Vo Ram Yoon interviewed Alex Peltz in May 2016.
Vo: Alex! Thank you so much for your time! Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Alex: I’m a second year in the College majoring in Anthropology and in Religious Studies. I grew up in a town called Sharon outside Boston. I am really into music and philosophy and a lot of community organizing and political activism. And that’s how basically I spend my free time: making music and organizing.
Vo: That’s amazing! So, I know that you weren’t actually involved in the teaching side of NSP, so could you tell me about the role that you had?
Alex: Yeah, so I applied to NSP because I wanted to work with kids. I worked with a lot of preschool age kids in the past and I’ve been a camp counselor and that’s the so
rt of work I’ve always found to be really rewarding and really enjoyable. I applied obviously wanting to do that and they were like, would you be okay doing this other thing that might not be teaching? And I’m like, yeah, sure, however I can help. It turned out to be an administrative intern position over at RainbowPUSH, which is Jesse Jackson’s racial equality organization. It’s been around sinc
e the 80’s. And so I did a lot of work there on looking at the Chicago public education system. I did a lot of work trying to contact different corporations in Chicago to get funding for RainbowPUSH’s new STEM drive. They just opened a new computer lab in the building.
Vo: Interesting! So is there anything that you particularly enjoyed about working at RainbowPUSH or a project that you’re especially proud of?
Alex: There’s just so many really great people there who have been in this fight for
ever and people who are really dedicated to it. It’s so inspiring to be around that kind of energy. It was so cool, at the time I got there, to see this big, empty room become a real nice computer lab by the time I left. I would go in there and there would be stuff on the whiteboard and classes being taught. Just knowing that I helped contribute to that was so great and knowing that there are people to whom it is making a difference. I think the best thing I did, the thing I am most proud of, is that I actually got to be on Jesse Jackson’s TV show with him. So that was an amazing chance to meet this guy who is a historical figure in American history. This guy, who I think has done so much good for this country, to be asking me what I do and getting me on the conversation. It was just amazing.
Vo: Awesome! So as part of the NSP program, you had to attend a workshop per quarter, so could you tell me about a workshop that stood out to you?
Alex: Yes! It was fall quarter of this year when a woman was talking about the philosophy behind social justice. That was just like really, really fascinating. It was cool to hear her talking about, like really breaking it down into a moral, fundamental level. Talking about why it is important for her. She homeschools her kids and she was telling us about how she teaches them and her theory of pedagogy. It was all stuff that was just...everything she said made me go, “Yes. I want you to teach my kids”. So that was really great.
Vo: I’m glad you had such a memorable workshop! So what do you think that working for NSP has added to your college experience?
Alex: I think it’s definitely expanded my horizons and it has allowed me to really feel like p
art of this community. I think that the fear I would have and the fear that a lot of other people have is that stuff like this turns into this whole “Do Good Savior” thing, where it’s like, “Oh, I’m a college student going out to help the South Side”. But, it really was not like that for me. I really did meet people who I managed to forge a genuine connection with. I felt like part of this bigger community, which is a really exceptional thing I think.
Vo: So considering your experiences working for NSP through RainbowPUSH, do you see yourself going into education or working at a non-profit in the future?
Alex: Yeah, I do so much organizing right here, right now. My main thing is that I’m working on a campaign for disability justice. I come from my mom, who works in pre-schools. My grandma worked in preschools. I grew up with a great public education system that made me who I am. I am definitely planning on continuing with my organizing, my politics. I’m one of those people who, if you asked me “What’s the
cure to our ills?”, I would tell you it’s first economics. Make sure people aren’t poor. But if education is not number one, it’s number two easily. I think the value of a solid education system is truly unfathomable. I cannot overstate how important it is for people to have good education systems where they have teachers who are involved in the community and involved in kid’s lives. People out there who create a community for these kids and for these families and for each other. I think cultivating that is the most important thing you can do.
What a motivational message! Well, thank you again for taking the time to share your experiences and I hope you have a great rest of the quarter!