When I was younger I told adults I wanted to either help people or be the first woman in the NBA. Although I loved basketball, I decided that helping others was my true (and more realistic) calling. At the University of Central Florida, where I majored in Health Sciences with a minor in Communicative Disorders, I joined “Best Buddies,” a non-profit organization that helps people with intellectual or developmental disabilities become friends with staff members and find employment. After college I fell in love with a job where I taught and provided hands-on care to teens and adults diagnosed with Autism. I worked there for five and a half years, then left to live with and care for my grandmother in New York, a time I treasure immensely. It was then that I decided to pursue my dream of volunteerism and joined Literacy AmeriCorps, excited to gain teaching experience.
After my service site interviews I knew I wanted to be part of RCMA and the Farmworker Children’s Council. Both are support programs located at “In The Pines,” a nonprofit organization that provides affordable housing to low-income farm workers and their families. At RCMA I’ve been assigned 13 VPK (Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten) students. We spend one-to-one sessions together reading stories, playing literacy games, and occasionally watching educational videos. Each learner is making their own alphabet book to take home at the end of the year. I’ve also started the second OLP (Oral Language Proficiency) assessment for mid-year, and every student tested so far has improved his or her scores since the beginning of the year! I also spend a great deal of time interacting with all 20 students, reinforcing their English skills while they’re engaged in free-time, music time, arts and crafts, coloring, or eating lunch. It’s exciting to see their progress, especially since many don’t hear English spoken in their home.
“Farmworker Children’s Council” is an after-school program where students come to read for 20 minutes each day, as well as receive help with homework and projects. I have 8 assigned learners between 1st and 4th grade whom I tutor individually from 20 minutes to an hour. I have the opportunity to create my own lesson plans and incorporate technology into them, while the students can choose the books they’d like to read. As someone who believes building confidence is just as important as academic assistance, I enjoy speaking with students about their lives, goals, fears, and interests. Before Christmas break I gave out books and small gifts to my learners in appreciation of their hard work.
The holidays were a special time at both sites. I shared a Thanksgiving lunch with the children and families at RCMA, as well as a Thanksgiving dinner with my site supervisor, Ms. Dana, and her English Class. During Christmas I helped pass out dinners to the “In The Pines” community and also donated clothes that I had been collecting from friends and family.
Both sites have received lending libraries this year from the Palm Beach County Library. At RCMA, I cataloged the library’s books and will be making a few take-home activities for the families to enjoy them together. At the Farmworker Children’s Council I introduced all the students to the library, and they can’t wait to start checking books out!
I truly look forward to going to my sites each day and taking part in the learners’ growth and accomplishments. It’s the small things I’ll remember the most — the pre-schoolers laughing when they get stuck in their sweaters, the looks on their faces when they “heard” the sound of the ocean in seashells for the first time, and the expressions of the middle school students jumping up and down outside my window and waving. I’m so grateful for being a part of this community, and I look forward to new memories involving students, families, and co-workers this year.