German Figueroa, Reading Partners

My name is German Figueroa and I am a sophomore studying Psychology at American University. For the last couple of weeks, I have had the privilege to take part in a critical thinking community-based learning program. The program allows me to spend time off campus working with a non-profit where I can apply skills that I am learning in the classroom to my community work. I am part of the CAS Leadership and Ethical Development program, where I am currently enrolled in a leadership discussion based course. Utilizing the tools and skills acquired in this course, I have linked this seminar to community work with a non-profit called Reading Partners.

The seminar teaches us to look at the places that are commonly neglected and find where leadership is needed. Some of the things I learned were shocking; for example, only 26% of kids in the 3rd grade were on track for the next grade level regarding reading proficiency. Studies show “Only four in 10 D.C. third-graders are proficient readers.” Why is this important? Only because these results have shown a huge correlation with 3rd-grade reading proficiency can be a predictor of the kid’s future academic success. For example, 2/3 of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of 4th-grade will end up in jail or on welfare.

The leadership program encourages my peers and I to find places where there is a lack of leadership and to become involved. The problem is that by the end of 3rd grade some of our kids are being set up to fail. I joined Reading Partners through DC Reads as a Team-Leader, where I am in charge of training and supporting American University students who are giving an extra hand to public school teachers from underprivileged communities by tutoring kids that need extra assistance with literacy.

This opportunity has allowed me to figure out what my role is and what professional interests I see myself pursuing after I graduate from American University. I would like to teach for an elementary or middle school, as I feel that is a crucial time where kids are most impacted from the environment around them, and I want to become a part of positively shaping their minds. That age is a huge determining factor, and I think that with my background and interpersonal skills that I can bring a lot to the table. I am going to begin to look more into projects like Teach for America, to figure out where I best fit.

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