Joining the AmeriCorps program is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life…. It is a job where we make a difference in many people’s life and the community.
AmeriCorps has really given me the chance to learn what it takes as a leader, a community member, and a teacher.
These statements come from AmeriCorps members Reflection Journals. The members are high school students in the Northern Mariana Islands who are serving as tutors and mentors to students in elementary schools.
These young people are making a huge difference in the lives of children they teach by helping them acquire the skills they need to succeed in school and in life. They are not doing this just for the monthly stipend and education award or because it will look good on their college applications. Their delight and pride in their students’ achievements is evident:
Seeing his face light up because he understood was a great feeling.
The pure joy I feel after seeing them succeed makes everything worth it.
It is also clear that it isn’t easy for them. They sacrifice time with their friends and families.
I’ve missed a lot of club meetings, activities, and even my closest friends’ birthday parties to be with my students.
They struggle with student behavioral issues. The after-school students today were extremely naughty and didn’t listen to anything we were saying.
The AmeriCorps members have doubts about their ability to be effective with students. Overall I felt that I wasn’t doing my “job” as well as I should have and that made me feel underwhelmed.
In the process, they gain important insights into teaching and learning.
I wanted them to improve their reading levels so desperately that I forget to include colors, creativity, and fun into their learning.
Lessons should be fun and interactive and memorable and that’s how you keep knowledge in their minds.
But I also realized that some things are beyond the teacher’s control; the students have a responsibility as well. Effort from both sides is essential for the students’ success.
Often when we think and talk about youth, we focus on the negatives—graffiti, crimes, disrespectful behavior—and we fail to recognize the many positive influences our youth have on our families and communities. Thank you to all the AmeriCorps members nationwide and all of the other youth who are making the world a better place. I am proud of you. (Judith F. Clark, Special to the Saipan Tribune)
Judith F. Clark is executive director of the Hawaii Youth Services and network evaluator of the AmeriCorps program in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.