Julia Hoffman, H.D. Cooke Elementary School

In the beginning of my high school career, one of the most valuable experiences I had was volunteering at the Kaleidoscope Youth Center as a tutor for elementary school students. After the center was shut down because of lack of funding, I continued as a peer tutor at my high school and a paid tutor for a middle school student. Through these exposures to the world of teaching, I discovered my passion for sharing knowledge and understanding. As a result, I made the decision to pursue a degree that will hopefully lead to a career in education policy. Through the policy route, I believe I can most effectively reach the greatest number of children and effect the greatest change.

When I came to American University this fall, I wanted to make sure that I received the best education possible to pursue this goal. At my university orientation, I learned about the Community Service-Learning Program (CSLP), which allowed me to actively engage in the DC community and earn credit for doing so. Through this program, I had the opportunity to add a credit to an education course, and I now spend four hours each Tuesday at H. D. Cooke Elementary School as a literacy tutor. I work with three girls each week through the Reading Partners program, giving them the individualized attention and dedication that they need.

I understand that this single semester of service will not fundamentally change the lives of these three girls. I understand that it will not suddenly give me a full understanding of inner-city educational systems and the unique challenges that exist within these settings. This brief introduction into the world of teaching in schools has not fully prepared me for future interactions with teachers and teacher unions. I also don’t currently have the power to make any significant improvements or change any structural deficits.

That being said, I firmly believe that any positive impact I have made is worth every minute. I have worked my hardest to ensure that these girls feel validated in their confusion, but empowered to improve and succeed. I have done my best to pay attention to the way schools actually function on a daily basis, especially in a low-income area. I have attempted to consider the different backgrounds my students come from, understanding that no single educational method is a definite recipe for success. I sincerely hope that I have helped these three girls either academically or personally through our weekly literacy sessions, because their respect and admiration has confirmed my desire to pursue an education-related career.

I am thankful that American University supported me in establishing this volunteer opportunity and validated my time and effort. Through this past semester, I have served my new local community, earned academic credit, and learned more about the practical applications of academic content through interactive experiences.

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