My name is Andrea Reid. I am currently in the second year of a Finance and Economics double major in The American University. Being from the Dominican Republic, a small island in the heart of the Caribbean, the general education courses offered of Education for International Development intrigued me. The breadth and depth of such course includes the study of educational systems of high school institutions of developing economies, as well as developed ones, including the United States. This motivated me to explore the educational systems of the US in order to better understand, and better participate in class debates. After researching and trying to figure out where I wanted to volunteer, and many visits to the Center for Community Engagement at AU for assistance, I was moved by the mission of DC Reads, a not-for-profit organization that works to reduce illiteracy rates of Washington, DC – which is the central focus of the course I am currently taking. I am specifically at the MOMIES (Mentors of Minorities in Education) organization at their Whittiers location.
What does a day at Whittiers look like? Two days a week, I leave AU from the Zip car parking lot behind the library, with seven or eight colleagues at 3:45 pm, and arrive at Whittiers around 4-4:10pm. Once we arrive, we all go together through the big red door, sign in at the front desk where a female guard, always very presentable sits, and then we all diverge in to the rooms we are used to assisting. I am currently working with students of third and fourth grade, with around fifteen students overall. Once I get into the room, the kids start saying “sister, sister” I want you to help me, and even take me by the hand so that no other students take me. I then start to help him or her on their homework, mostly math and reading, until completing it. On days of great weather, we go outside the rest of the time to play kickball, and tag with the little ones until it is time to leave.
Going to Whittiers has never been a burden, not even the most stressed of days. The kids are very welcoming and are always pleased to see us, receiving us with a big smile, even when they are not so eager to work. It is a break from the hard day at AU. I started with no expectations at all. I had previously worked at public schools back in the Dominican Republic and was keen to see how the education system in public schools in the US differed from those back home. I have found differences, but mostly on installations rather than on educational patterns. Hence, I do believe there is still a lot to be done, in terms of culture, in order to improve educational systems, specifically of public schools, both in the US and in the Dominican Republic.