When I tell people I’m focusing on education studies, (it won’t be on my degree, but I’ve taken a lot of classes in the field!) the first response I usually get is, “Oh wow – so do you want to be a teacher?” As a senior at AU who is actually majoring in Sociology and is expected to be a teacher, I have surprisingly never worked with children. Kid Power is a non-profit whose mission is to promote academic advancement, physical and emotional wellness, and positive civic engagement in under-served communities throughout the District of Columbia. I am helping them achieve this at Jefferson Middle School by helping run an after school program for three hours twice a week.
During the program, we reserve thirty minutes for socialization, an hour for homework, typically thirty to forty-five minutes for a group activity, and the remainder of the time is spent on the playground. When I first started volunteering with Kid Power, my sole motivation was to use it purely as a line for my resume. After graduation, I intend to serve with the Peace Corps as an educator abroad (does that make the answer to people’s question yes?), and I have been told by recruiters that volunteering/mentoring “inner city” students would make me a competitive applicant.
However, now after completing almost two months of service I feel like the kids are teaching me more than I am teaching them. I used to dread making the trek down to L’Enfant Plaza twice a week. It was pretty brutal – but now as the kids make me feel like they actually look forward to me being there, I leave school every day feeling fulfilled. Don’t get me wrong – there are hard days (and I mean really hard days) – on these days the kids are disrespectful, obnoxious, and sometimes just plain mean. But on the good days, I can sit with a student for forty-five minutes, and help them finish their homework, and be greeted at the end of it with a big “thank you”.
Feeling like I’ve gotten through to one student each day I am there is worth the long trip and time out of my busy schedule. The class that I am completing this Community Service Learning Program (CSLP) is Urban Lives, and I can draw many parallels between my course material and the work that I am doing at Jefferson. I notice a difference in the way the that the students interact with me versus my site coordinator, who is an employee of Kid Power. This is the central question of ethnography that I am completing for my course. I really was not sure what to expect when I started this semester at Jefferson Middle School. I think that I have a lot to learn, and a lot of growing to do, but I am looking forward to finishing up the semester with these students, saying good bye to some of them at the end of this school term, welcoming a new batch of incoming students, and working with Kid Power for quite some time.