MIM Service Project Spring 2021: Aleksandra Baryshnikova

Photo taken of Aleksandra Baryshnikova in 2021. Photo by Komila Kholmatova /CC BY 4.0

STUDENT BIO

Greetings! My name is Aleksandra Baryshnikova, I’m an international student majoring in Hospitality at Florida International University. I moved to Miami around three years ago to pursue my Bachelor’s degree. Unfortunately, I only had a chance to take one-semester of the “Miami in Miami” class. I thought I would never fall in love with Miami, however, the “Finding Miami” class changed my perspective. That’s why they say “never say never.”

WHO

For my service project, I decided to volunteer for SPC at Florida International University. The Student Programming Council is an amazing organization that creates and organizes many events for FIU students. They try to entertain and bring creativity to students. Thus, I chose to volunteer for SPC at Pride Drag Show. Even nowadays with the pandemic, Student Programming Council has been bringing the most engaging performances to Florida International University, which a lot of students enjoy.

Also, I was lucky enough to volunteer for Deering Estate for a clean-up at Chicken Key with professor Bailly. We spend our last class cleaning the island and enjoying the sun and ocean. Clearly, I would never forget my last Honors’ class. However, for this paper, I want to focus on the Drag Show for SPC. 

Photo taken of a Drag Queen in 2021. Photo by Aleksandra Baryshnikova /CC BY 4.0

WHY

To be born as a member of the LGBTQ+ community in Russia means that throughout your whole life you will face ridiculous discrimination quite often. Almost two dozen nations have authorized a law that allows people who belong to the LGBTQ community to have same-sex marriages. However, the Russian Federation absolutely denies the existence of homosexual communities. Unfortunately, government rules and laws discriminate against the opportunity for homosexual individuals to speak their minds and peacefully live their life. As a Russian citizen, I believe that I have a responsibility to show concern for people who were deprived of their rights and freedom. I decided to volunteer at the Drag performance to show my support for the LGBTQ community. Furthermore, I believe that community service educates and trains dependability and maturity. I believe that someday my native country will finally come to the fair decision of providing rights to the groups of minorities. But for now, I will continue to provide any help and support that I can, to show my respect and appreciation to LGBTQ individuals. 

HOW

I stumbled upon the chance to volunteer at the Drag Show for SPC  on one of my emails from FIU’s Honors College. It should be noted that I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities that Honors college provides. The volunteering hours at the Drag Queen show were promoted by Erica Jayne Friedman. Yet, with the Coronavirus’ epidemic, Florida International University finds ways to diversify and entertain its students. I found this astonishing. I hope that in the near future we will be able to come back to normal and open even more events and volunteering opportunities for FIU students.

Photo taken of a Drag Queen in 2021. Photo by Aleksandra Baryshnikova /CC BY 4.0

WHERE & WHAT

On 10 April 2021, one of my best friends, Komila Kholmatova, and I had to be present at 3 pm at GC Lawns, FIU. We arrived earlier and met a group of SPC people who were already setting up tables and other equipment. Komila and I received t-shirts and an event tag with all of the information for the event. Later, we started to help other volunteers set up for the event. We wrap the tables, packed give-aways, received and organized food, and cleaned the stations. Around five pm guests started to arrive. Komila and I were set to the food station. We got pretty lucky since we still could see the show from our spot. As soon as people came, we were giving away meals and snacks. Undoubtedly, time flew and it was already seven when the event officially started. The show was incredible, the Drag Queens were the stars of the show. Personally, I had never been to a Drag show before, however, I saw many performances online. The atmosphere was amazing, everyone was enjoying the night. People screamed, laughed, and even danced. I believe there were about five of the Queens, who demonstrated marvelous entertainment. The show ended on a high note and guests slowly started disappearing. Thus the last part of the volunteering began. The SPC group and volunteers initiated the cleaning. We perceived to clean all tables, wrap up leftovers and take the equipment back to the SPC office. Hence, our volunteering hours came to an end. 

WHEN

SUMMARY

During the community service, I realized how little it takes to bring good things to the world. If everyone would dedicate only an hour of their time to improve social issues or other worldwide problems, the world would become a heaven on earth. Throughout the whole academic year, I have improved my knowledge of social issues by taking Honors classes. I have had many opportunities to talk with people who are knowledgeable in the area of social justice. Those opportunities were provided by Honors college at FIU. To this day, I cannot express my gratitude for all of the opportunities I’ve been given thanks to them. While lectures and zoom classes bring a great value to a students’ education, the volunteering work exposed Honors students to a plethora of benefits outside of a classroom or a lecture. While there is great value in this style of learning, my community service work has taught me the many benefits of studying using different environments and teachers like fellow classmates, rangers, and people at volunteer sites,  despite their educational level or background.

 Other than that, I think many people assume that volunteering is a boring waste of their time. However, who said that people can not have fun during volunteering? My friends and I had the best time doing kayaking, clean-ups, and food tabling. I consider my experience as quality time. While my friends and I left Chicken Key Island with sore shoulders, zero stamina, and sunburned faces, Deering Estate left me with ambitions and an understanding of one thing: That you do not necessarily have to accomplish big things, as long as you have a good company and loyal friends and family by your side, you’ve won. A part of me definitely feels satisfied after all of the volunteering hours. I will try my best to continue dedicating myself to community service and strive to do better.

CITATION

Florida International University – Web Communications. “Student Programming Council.” FIU, studentaffairs.fiu.edu/get-involved/student-programming-council/. 

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