My Decade With Al-Bustan

When Al-Bustan came to my 7th-grade music class at Germantown Friends School, I did not think that the organization would later come to reflect my interests so wholly. My hobbies have always been in the arts; as both the daughter of musicians and a dancer myself, I was indoctrinated early. We were required to play an instrument growing up, but once dance became my primary activity I was allowed to count it as my musical education.

Grace Kushner and fellow intern Byquill Mosley at Northeast High School.

As I progressed through high school, languages came to the forefront of my academic interests while music and dance remained my extra-curricular activities. I had taken Spanish since 7th grade and decided to spend my junior year of High School in Spain. Learning a language in a country where it is spoken accelerated my skills and when I returned I wanted to take on new languages.

Arabic was offered my senior year of high school as an Independent Study so once a week during lunch period four of us would shakily try to copy the flowing letters on the board. However, this introduction was enough to pique my interest.

I have taken Arabic for the past three years at Vassar College, completing the exercises in Al Kitaab nearly nightly, and I wanted to test my knowledge in a more practical way. Occasionally in Arabic class, a word would come up and I would remember it from the songs we sang with Al-Bustan in middle school. In thinking about possible internships, I went back through the different organizations I had come in contact with. The experience of singing in a different language had stuck with me all this time and the work that Al-Bustan does to combine arts education and Arab culture in Philadelphia seemed to align perfectly.

I was hoping that the Al-Bustan staff would share similar interests to mine and I was not disappointed. Throughout my month here I am grateful to have been wholeheartedly included in the projects of the group. Each staff member has created or continued programs that are meaningful to them, so each one feels personal. From activities with students to locally catered dinners, there is an intention behind every event to engage with the community.

I have learned a lot about the way that non-profit work is organized and executed and I am grateful to have had this opportunity.
Thank you for a great month!


Grace Kushner
Intern, Vassar College
Class of 2020, International Studies

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