Service Year Reflection

May 21, 2018

What I’ve Gained in my Service Year

 

Chynna serves at the Helps Education Fund in Raleigh, NC. The Helps Education Fund connects research with practice and engages teachers, parents, and volunteers to improve student learning.

 

I first learned about North Carolina Literacy Corps and AmeriCorps through the founder of Helps Education Fund. I was in a panic, for a lack of better words, because of my impending graduation from NC State. I was not ready for graduate school yet. I was still unsure of exactly what I wanted to do. A service year seemed like the perfect fit for a gap year between undergraduate and graduate school.

 

Last August, I began my service year a bit overwhelmed. I was faced with financial stress, learning a new position and attempting to get my bearings post grad. Looking back from that time so long ago, I can reflect on what I’ve gained since when I first began my service year.

 

  • Time Management: I cannot emphasize how important learning how to manage your time will be in your service year. During your service year you have to keep up with your work responsibilities (which can be a lot day to day!), a possible part time job, self care and a social life!
  • Professional Development: NCLC gives us access to a lot of webinars. We also attended Let’s Talk Racism Conference. We were able to engage in discussions about the school to prison pipeline, importance of PTAs and diversity in the school system.
  • A Sense of Purpose: I cannot put into my words how seeing growth in my students has impacted me. I work with over a hundred students and the amount of growth they’ve made in their reading is amazing! Knowing that I helped facilitate their academic growth is so rewarding.
  • Additional Skills: I hated public speaking in college. I dreaded class presentations. Now, I do volunteer and teacher trainings all the time. I had never worked with lots of people, now I can problem solve and try to make the best of any situation. I have improved my communication- whether that be with students, peers or supervisors.

 

This year has been a valuable experience. I would recommend doing a service year to anyone that is unsure of what their next step might be. I am confident that my experience this year only made me a better candidate for graduate school and any future jobs. I can’t wait to see where life after AmeriCorps takes me!

 

 

 

The Queen In Me

May 10, 2018

The Queen in Me Girls Group Career Day

 

Sumaya is a full-time member serving with Communities in Schools of Durham. This non-profit organization works to reduce drop out rates of at-risk youth by providing them with the tools to be academically successful.

 

On May 7th Sumaya hosted a Career day for her girls group (The Queen In Me) at Ek Powe elementary. The event consisted of 9 presentations by 17 girls and 2 boys between the ages of 8 and 11. Each girl did research on a career and were then broken up into groups to make posters to present in front of our other after-school students and a career panel. Following poster presentations, a career panel of 7 professionals spoke about their careers, job duties, educational background, salary range, etc.

 

              

 

 

                  

Global Youth Service Day 2018 (GYSD)

April 30, 2018

Joy Wahnefried serves at Community Empowerment Fund where she partners with learners to improve their financial literacy and works to develop and improve CEF’s financial literacy curriculum.  She leads the partnership between CEF and Families Moving Forward.

 

From Scraps to Smiles

 

 

“So many books and bookmarks!” that was my first thought when I walked into the room.  The first thing I saw was a table that was filled with free books and a bucket full of bookmarks people had made and exchanged for some of those free books.

I had been a little apprehensive about GYSD. I don’t often work with children in my role. Our site focuses on financial literacy and all of the learners I work with are adults with children of their own. So unlike many of my Literacy Corps colleagues I don’t have much one-on-one interaction with children. So it was with some trepidation that I headed into the room to help run this service project. Soon I was watching a little girl make a bookmark with her father that she wanted to make sure was, “sparkly and pretty”. This child was barely able to reach over the table when she knelt on the chair make book marks for other kids. It was amazing to see how one by one each person made a bookmark out of scraps, that would have otherwise been thrown away, into a bookmark they thought would make someone else happy and put it gently into the big bucket with a huge smile on their face. The smiles just got bigger when they saw the books that they would be able to take home with them to read and enjoy for a very long time.

In the midst of seeing all of those smiling faces I was struck by how many people and organizations worked to make those happen.  The Triangle area NC Literacy Corps was lucky enough to partner with three amazing non-profits in the area for our even. The first was the Scrap Exchange who let us participate and add to the Earth Day DIY event. The Scrap Exchange is an amazing local non-profit that specializes in helping create beautiful things out of what otherwise windup in the landfill would. They have been teaching creative literacy to the Durham community for over 25 years. We were so lucky to be able to partner with this organization who allowed our GYSD event to reach many more people that we could have hoped.

The next organization we were able to partner with was Book Harvest who is another wonderful non-profit in the Triangle area. Book Harvest’s Mission is to provide every child with books they want to read. They were so generous and donated many books to us to give out to the kids that came to make bookmarks. But the organization that is closest to my heart that we got to partner with is Families Moving Forward. Families Moving Forward is Durham’s largest family homeless shelter. I go there every Thursday to meet with learners there to work on financial literacy. I have gotten to know these families. I’ve celebrated with them as credit scores have gone up and lamented with them when they hit frustrating barriers that have slowed them down in their goals to get jobs and housing. In my months serving at Community Empowerment Fund I have grown to love these people.

So it was especially meaningful to me to see all these people who did not know these families making bookmarks for the kids that live at Families Moving Forward.  It was even more rewarding knowing I would get to give away these bookmarks and five boxes of books to the families I work with. Seeing their faces light up when I told them they got to keep these books was amazing to me. Normally I’m telling kids that they cannot keep the toys CEF has for them to play with when they are meeting with us so this was a delightful change. I’m so grateful for the many people who made that moment possible. It was amazing to see how many smiles were formed by using scraps of paper, ribbon, and stickers.

D.E.A.R

April 13, 2018

Drop Everything and Read Day

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” –Lemony Snicket

“Rebekah King is a full-time AmeriCorps member serving at Reading Connections. She supports Adult Basic Education and English as a Second Language learners in the Guilford County area.”

Since I was a child, the love of learning and reading was instilled in me by my parents who took me to the library as much as possible. This was not always just for my benefit, as I grew up in a household that shared a love of reading. It seemed about twice a week we would drive down to our local library, returning what seemed to be 10 books per person just to leave with what seemed to be more. As a rule of thumb, even today, I keep at least on book on my person in case there is an emergency situation which calls for a paperback.

Drop Everything and Read Day was created so that all families could come together to enjoy the wonders of a good book as well as much needed family time. D.E.A.R Day takes place every year on April 12th in honor of the children’s author, Beverly Clearly. She wrote titles such as, “Ramona Quimby, Age 8”, “Dear Mr. Henshaw”, and “Socks”. Her children’s books have reached a wide audience and have changed many people’s lives for the better, and still continues to do so today.

Reading to your children is vital to their personal growth and development for several reasons. It not only encourages a thirst for knowledge, but it sets children up for success later on in their lives. It sets them up for success because it helps prepare younger children for school, it develops their language skills, and an exposure to reading will exercise a child’s brain. Not only does reading with your child do what was stated above, it also encourages creativity and could foster a love of books that helps them become the next Beverly Clearly. This can all be done by starting to read with your child just thirty minutes a day!

Even though Drop Everything and Read Day has officially ended, that does not mean that you still can’t drop everything and read. Every book offers its own unique journey, so go out and live a thousand of those adventures!

AmeriCorps Week

March 16, 2018

Amber Beal serves at the Literacy Council of Buncombe County as the Recruitment and Awareness Coordinator, maintaining lasting relationships between volunteers and the organization and community.

Americorps week is a week designated to show appreciation, support and visibility to those who wear the “A”. It is a nationally recognizable symbol that is worn by strong individuals of all ages who have made the decision to devote their time to serving others.  Americorps represents those who are 18 years old to 99 years old and their accomplishments in their communities.

Service areas include Education, homelessness, refugee settlement, disaster relief and environment and more with both direct and indirect service opportunities which vary by program and location.

As a 3rd year Americorps member I have had a broad range of service responsibilities. My first experience with Americorps was with FEMA Corps where for 10 months I worked on flood mitigation and environmental cleanup after the Colorado flood damage of 2013. It was a mixture of both office and outside labor. I was able to stay in a beautiful city and work alongside community members helping them mitigate and restore their homes and land right out of undergrad.

Currently, I am a NC Literacy Corps member serving at The Literacy Council of Buncombe County where I manage and recruit volunteers and promote the importance of early literacy. Prior to this service year I was in Project MARS which focused on school based mentoring and academic success in WNC elementary and middle schools. Through my two most recent service experiences I have been able to explore what kind of career I wish to pursue post Americorps and how to approach and obtain a career position.

All three of my service experiences allowed me to work with different people in other communities as well as serve in a local position where I can directly give back to the community that gave me my education.

No matter what capacity you serve in or when you served, Americorps remains a strong support system with post service opportunities that place motivated and passionate individuals in the workplace. A year as a service member is challenging but the reward is knowing you’ve touched those who can or aren’t able to say Thank You and looking back on your service with pride.

 

World Day of Social Justice

March 13, 2018

Bria Yates and I am a Senior Biological and Biomedical Science major, Chemistry minor with a concentration in pre-med. She currently serves as the America Reads coordinator at North Carolina Central University (NCCU). She organizes 100 tutors and divide them among the six Durham Public Schools being serve.

This month I decided to write a blog about World Day of Social Justice (WDSJ). WDSJ is a day recognizing the need to promote efforts to tackle issues such as poverty, exclusion and unemployment. This issue spoke to me because I am aware of the Virtual Justice Project we have here on NCCU’s campus. The Virtual Justice Project is the first of its kind. Since 2010 the law school on our campus has been striving to keep ahead of the game when it comes to Virtual Legal Education. Because of their dedication to be in the forefront, NCCU’s Law School has launched the Virtual Justice Project. The Virtual Justice Project is an innovation in legal education and technology. This Project was pioneered to address the under representation of African American lawyers and a lack of access to justice for low income and marginalized communities (NCCU School of Law). This Program serves as the prototype for other programs to begin at other Law Schools.

Just about every Wednesday during the school year North Carolina Central University provides a seminar on a variety of topics. These seminars are free and open to the public. They even provide a way for people who are not in the area to call in and participate in these talks remotely. The event I decided to attend for World Day of Social Justice was Power of Attorney and Wills Clinic Part I. This was a lively informational session on Power of Attorney and why everyone needs one. Attorney Bill Moore discussed advanced planning for Durable and Health Care Powers of Attorney as well as Living Wills and the benefits of preparing them. Some Highlights from Bill Moore’s talk was that the person you assigned Power of Attorney can have limited power. I didn’t know you could have them in place for a period of time or restrict what they had control of. This talk helped me to better understand the use of the Power of Attorney and why we should all consider having one in place before it’s too late.

In conclusion, NCCU’s School of Law’s Virtual Justice Project has for the last seven years filled access-to-justice gaps by providing virtual services organizations with low-income community members who have a need for legal services. Lawyers and clients work together remotely using high definition conferencing and telepresence. The system provides a virtual community forum space and pre-law classes for students planning to attend law school.
If you are interested in seeing what NCCU’s Virtual Justice Project is about, I have provided a list of upcoming events below for your convenience. For more information on how to be involved please contact virtualjusticeproject@nccu.edu or call

919-530-6601.

 

 

 

Those We Serve

March 9, 2018

Duane Allen is serving his second year at Literacy Connections of Wayne County (LCWC) in Goldsboro, NC. Literacy Connections is an adult literacy site that focuses on adult basic education, English language acquisition, and basic financial literacy. Learners are paired with trained tutors in a one-on-one format. Duane is working towards helping adults improve their literacy through two hourly sessions a week. 

 

While serving in AmeriCorps it can be easy to lose track of why we joined. Serving the community and planting the seeds of positive change in those we serve are the ultimate foundation of why we serve, and its what gets us moving in the morning despite what coffee companies may say.

I cannot  think of a better example than two learners at my service site. I have personally worked with one student (Shay) since close to the time I began with NC LiteracyCorps in August 2016. Mr. Ronnie, the other student, was with another tutor, but he makes his rounds every time he comes into the center.

Mr. Ronnie is an older learner working on basic literacy with the goal of working his way through the King James Bible, which he is doing thanks to the assistance of his attentive tutor Connor. Lately, Mr. Ronnie has taken a keen interest in math, excelling quickly from basic addition/subtraction to multiplication/division. This is remarkable once you understand the life that Mr. Ronnie has lived. He grew up in South Carolina, the son of very poor African American farmers. He ran away from home at the age of 12 and ended up in Goldsboro, because that is as far as the money his mother gave him to get him away from his abusive father. He spent his youth being homeless, including stints living under a bridge. Eventually he married and got a job with the Community College doing work for the facility. The whole time he worked his employer and children were unaware that he could not read. At home he would send the kids to their mother to receive help with homework. After retirement, a stroke led Mr. Ronnie to reevaluate his life and spirituality. This was the great catalyst that inspired him to seek assistance with reading. His goal is simply to read the King James Bible.

My student Shay is equally an interesting character, upon looking at him, you might not see the man that he used to be but you most definitely will see signs of what led him to the doors of Literacy Connections. He arrives to Literacy Connections on the days that we meet as soon as the doors open and waits until I arrive. However, the Shay of the late 1990’s was a man of a different cloth. Shay used to hang in the streets, valuing his physique as much as his did his money roll. That all came crashing down around him one night when a jealous rival shot him several times including twice in the head.  Amazingly, Shay lived, after awaking from a coma; among other things, he was told that he would never walk again. He had lost most of his muscle mass from the coma and muscle deterioration, over time (years), Shay went from being in a wheelchair, to using a walker, to walking with a cane, and then became able to walk unassisted. Shay has lost most of the use of his left side and is at Literacy Connections to regain the literacy skills he once had. He openly admits that he used to love to read novels, but now, due to the head injury words do not always connect the way they should.

Both Shay and Mr. Ronnie live their lives as testimonies for others to see examples of both how not to live yet also how to live after tragedy. Mr. Ronnie goes out into the community and active talks about the importance of literacy in his life. While Shay attempts to mentor and steer young men away from gang and drug life style that stole years of life and potential opportunities from him. I have learned a lot from both gentlemen about resilience and recovery.

National Literacy Action Week

February 21, 2018
“Alex Bernosky is a full time member serving with Reading Connections. Reading Connections
offers tutoring to adult basic education and adult ESOL learners in Guilford County.”
National Literacy Action Week, or NLAW, took place from February 1st to February 8th. During
this week, campus literacy programs hold events to raise awareness for the importance of
literacy. This year’s theme was “Literacy as a Right”, and SCALE partnered with Prison Books,
an organization dedicated to providing books to incarcerated individuals. Rebekah King and I are both AmeriCorps members serving with Reading Connections. We decided to provide tutors with lesson plans focusing on the importance of literacy and representation, restorative justice, and the school to prison pipeline. Rebekah and I created our own lesson plan focusing on literacy as right. The student objectives for that lesson plan are as follows:
● Students will discuss the idea of a single story and how a single story can impact the
way we think about an entire population.
● Students will identify ways that education and literacy can disrupt unequitable
hierarchies of power and privilege.
● Students will reflect on the importance of education as well as how having access to
literacy is vital in a person’s development and well-being.
Students were introduced to the topic via Humans of New York Inmate Stories series. These
stories were meant to highlight the backgrounds of a few inmates in a federal prison. Some of
the stories discussed the lack of access to education and the role the education system plays in
the school to prison pipeline. This opened the discussion on why education is so important
throughout childhood. Additionally, students watched Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk “The
Danger of a Single Story”, in which Chimamanda demonstrates the need for representative
literature. These activities exposed the students  to an important discussion concerning the outcome
when students are denied access to a quality education and/or are unable to see themselves
represented in the materials taught at school. This also gave students the space to talk about
their own experiences in school and how those experiences have affected them throughout their
lives and even still today.
After using the lesson plan with her own students, Rebekah gathered from them that “Schools
have made students afraid to learn and to ask questions, and the feeling of low self-worth has
carried into their adult lives as well”. Reading Connections serves adult students, and some of
our students did not have great experiences in school. Some may have been punished for
making mistakes, left behind in instruction, or pushed through to the next grade even though they were not ready or set up for success in the next grade level. For us, the take-away from our NLAW activity was to continue to provide supportive learning environments where it is safe and encouraged to make mistakes in order to learn and to provide students with representative and relevant instruction.

MLK Day of Service

January 25, 2018

MLK Day of Service at Book Harvest

Allie Brown

 

On January 15, our NC LiteracyCorps cohort participated in the annual Dream Big Book Drive with Book Harvest. With our focus on Literacy as a Right, this was a perfect way to put our words into action and do something to further promote literacy in our community.

We divided up into different groups to help all steps of the tremendous undertaking run smoothly. Some of us checked in volunteers, others accepted book donations, others directed volunteers who sorted, stickered, counted, boxed, and hauled boxes away. It was amazing to see how well-organized this event was: in the space of a few hours, we processed and sorted over 30,000 books that Book Harvest will distribute to eager readers of all ages.

This is an ideal activity to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. on Civil Rights Day. He was credited with saying: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” Similarly, the AmeriCorps motto is: “Getting things done for America.”

We all spend our days serving in community organizations and schools, focusing on improving literacy access to people of all ages, identities, and stages of life. Every day, we get things done for America and for others.

Little Free Libraries

January 25, 2018

“Areej Hussein is a minimum-time member serving with the UNC America Reads program. The UNC America Reads program offers tutoring and mentoring for grades K-5 in Chapel Hill-Carrboro city schools. “

 

“Little Free Libraries”

 

Education is a human right, not a privilege, and a child’s educational quality should not be based on whether their parents have more disposable income or live in a better neighborhood or, most importantly, come from a community that has suffered from systemic oppression and exploitation. The number of book deserts in high-poverty urban areas is striking, and the gap in literacy and simple exposure to words between communities of high and low socioeconomic status can only be closed by access to resources for areas without.

SCALE has received the MacDonald Fellowship grant of $1500. Other members of the SCALE team and I plan to use these funds to kick start our “Little Free Libraries” Initiative. The Little Free Library is revolved around the idea of “take a book, return a book” — it’s a free book exchange for children of all ages. We plan to place these libraries in Chapel-hill and Carrboro communities, including rural communities, low-income housing areas, refugee communities, and places where buses rarely run because many of these communities face barriers in accessing the public library.

Being a tutor has taught us first hand that every family has hardships, but being able to afford a book should not be one of them. Books help children develop basic language skills and immensely expand their vocabularies. Without this basic tool, a child could stumble forever. It is with this social issue that The Little Free Library initiative was created.

Another social issue we plan to address through the Little Free Library is the lack of diversity and proper representation of people of different backgrounds in public library collections.  Our goal is not only to provide children of these communities with free access to books, but our mission also includes providing these communities with literature that they can see themselves in. When children can see themselves in the books they read they are more likely to engage and show interest in reading. Promoting exclusivity in books is an important step in closing the achievement gap experienced by low-income and minority groups.