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Fitz Center for Leadership in Community

Imani's experiences: engaging with community through AmeriCorps

By Imani Foster

I started AmeriCorps almost a year ago. I remember joining on a whim, I had no idea if I even liked kids enough to help them. I was unsure of the impact that I could leave on them and the Dayton community. I remember I applied to the program because I wanted to help make a difference for students. My goal was to know by the end of my service if I would want to work in education.

My first service term at the library focused on keeping students 'fresh' for the upcoming school year. We played math and reading games. We also had trivia activities for the students. We planned programming for students that was educational while also being fun as well. I myself planned weekly arts activities with another service site member.

We had a program called Reading Buddies in which we would read with students to help improve their reading comprehension skills. While I enjoyed doing my service and I had fun, this is where I started seeing the huge gap in our education system. I encountered many students over the summer who were in high grade levels and were barely reading at a third grade level. I remember feeling so heartbroken and frustrated because of how bad some of these students were doing. I would say that this really lit a fire of determination for me to make a change for these students.

Over the summer it was hard to get the students engaged and I would hear our site supervisors and service members discuss how the fall service is for homework help and a lot more hands on than the service for the summer. This really encouraged me to want to participate in the fall term and make more of an impact for students. Once I started my fall term in the homework help room I got to really see how students were doing with their school work.

There were some students who were doing well but others who were struggling. It is during this term of service that I really started to see the impact I had on students. I remember one student in particular who could barely read his homework. I would work with him on his homework almost every time he came in. I would try to break things down the best that I could, so that he could better understand it. He came in one day and was able to read his entire assignment without any help. I remember feeling so overjoyed and proud of him when this happened. I and my fellow service sight members all praised him for how well he did. It is the moments like those that really touched my heart and kept me going.

Through my service I was able to connect and build with my students and the fellow service site members. Nothing beats the feeling of a student coming in and seeing you and being so excited to work with you. You never truly know your impact until you encounter an experience like that. To be quite honest, I miss these students so much. It makes me so so sad that my time was cut short with them. I wish the best for them in their future endeavors. I hope that I have impacted their life the way that they have impacted mine.

I also miss my fellow service site members. I think we were a really great team and we worked very well together. From the beginning we were welcomed with open arms and we built a bond with each other. We were always there to lend each other a helping hand when needed. They all made my service that much more enjoyable. I learned so much through them, along with my service site supervisors.

I am eternally grateful to this experience that in many ways had been life changing for me. I will never forget my experience with Education Corps and I would honestly recommend to anyone the opportunity to join this experience and gain the amount of love and knowledge that I have gained.

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