Tags: americorps, CHN, financial literacy, NEO Literacy Corps
This month, I started taking appointments for clients needing to complete profit and loss statements before they can be given an appointment regarding their foreclosure. It was great learning about all the different components over the last few months, and I’ve enjoyed putting these things into practice. I’ve introduced the idea of an expense report to about a dozen small business owners and given them the tools to differentiate personal and business expenses for the first time.
Because these clients are facing or considering foreclosure, it’s important for them to know how to calculate their bottom line. While some had a loss, there were a few who didn’t know that they were profiting. This is good because it means that their businesses are still afloat and perhaps they only need to supplement their income with a part-time job or reduce their personal expenses. It also helps them see if there are expenses within their business that can be reduced. The one-on-one appointments are going to be supplemented by a workshop starting next month.
- Written by Darin
Tags: afterschool program, americorps, literacy, NEO Literacy Corps
I’m on vacation in one of the best cities in the USA- Orlando, FL. Although I am having lots of fun with tourist attractions, I find myself wondering what is going on in my afterschool program right now. I’m questioning: Are the students getting their homework done, are they enjoying the lesson plan I left for the week, what is the weather and if they are getting outdoor free time. I do not think I could make a career out of being a teacher anytime soon, but for now these kids have really grown on me. It makes me so excited when they are asking me to help them with homework and what is today’s activity. So far the kids have enjoyed our themed weeks, like sports week, detective week, pie week, etc. Anytime I feel like not coming to serve or I just feel tired that feeling immediately goes away at about 2:30pm when the kids begin to show up. With positive and negative attitudes sometimes, the kids bring so much energy to the room and everyone in it.
In completing several fun weekly activities with the students, I have been able to assess the kids needs as learners and see what basic grade level they are on. After grading the students assignments, and interacting with their with daily homework I have set goals to help the students increase their academic performance. Not only will I continue to be a homework helper, I will also introduce new learning topics to the students and hope the extra knowledge will open doors for them that were not prior to my service.
- Written by Karmon
Tags: americorps, literacy, NEO Literacy Corps, service, volunteer
This week I interviewed my mentor for a Literacy Corps assignment, and the conversation – along with the short break it represented – came none too soon. I chose a professor to whom I’d been really close during my undergrad. I knew him as his student, knew what he thought of all kinds of books, how he writes, and what he thinks about the conflict between Israel and Palestine, but until this interview, I never knew much about his own path to teaching or his personal service philosophy.
While we talked, I listened to his messages about teaching: to keep asking questions, particularly how I could do something better, to keep trying to challenge people. As he spoke, I thought of little things that have happened throughout my service, and I asked him about the bad days. How does he cope? What keeps him coming back? When I asked these things, I mentioned what had happened at the after school program the previous day: a student who had been acting out and behaving defiantly had, eventually, to be physically restrained as he threw all of the contents off of a desk. It had been a bad day.
My professor looked concerned but didn’t falter. “You need to do your best and do all of the things I was saying before,” he said, “but you also can’t let it swallow you. There’s a whole life outside the classroom, and while we need to know that when we’re considering the behavior of students, there’s nothing wrong with stepping back sometimes and admitting that there are certain things over which you have no control.”
I remember growing up in an Evangelical Christian community – a group of which I no longer feel a part – and learning that, despite the constant emphasis on spreading a message and “getting people saved,” that there was really nothing I could do to save anyone. Whatever happened to folks’ souls was mystical and largely out of my control, and the truth is, it’s not so different here. During the several week build-up to the desk-destroying incident, the little boy in question was given warnings and behavior contracts. He was asked to participate and sometimes allowed to be separate. We had talk after talk with his parents. But in the end, with his particular set of circumstances, we weren’t able to accommodate his needs. On the day that he trashed the desk, we had to ask for him not to come back.
I struggled and am still, to a certain extent, struggling with this. Turning someone away, even when they’re distracting other kids and making an environment unsafe for themselves and others, goes against something that’s been ingrained in me since childhood – a kind of evangelical approach to life. Thankfully, though, my mentor interview came at just the right time. To bring the kind of humility and willingness to learn that I want to bring to my AmeriCorps year, I know I must also bring an understanding that it isn’t my job, nor is it possible, to save anyone.
- Written by Lydia
Tags: americorps, health literacy, NEO Literacy Corps
There are many refugees that I see and educate. Mostly women are there at my classes, since our topics are geared to women’s health. I see a majority of ladies ages 40 and above. They seem so far removed from interaction with American’s, especially white American people. I don’t like being seen, however it is that they see me, and know that I am not like them. Not that they are not like me but that I am not like them. Can you understand what I am saying? I am not so different than they. I know that my culture is way different than their culture and I know they wonder about me, or people like me. So, every chance I see, I try to create a space for them to ask questions.
I will be spending more time with them in the near future and I look forward to making new contacts. I open myself up and stop the chit chat among them and offer an open chat session with the ladies and myself, along with the interpreters of course. I want them to feel comfortable around me and know that I have a family that I go home to everyday. I have health issues that I battle with and struggle with our health care system, that I have feelings just like they do. So, long story short. It came back to me days after the classes, that the ladies were so glad that I took my time to come share my health information with them and am collaborating with others to seek health screenings and services to offer them. It made me feel that I was doing the right thing. This is only the surface. I pray that I will be put in a place where I can help others and in my helping, I will be humbled. I do not have feelings that I am or my way is better than another’s just different. I like to share the differences. I love to learn from others and hope that others will learn from me. We were put here on this earth to help one another. May we all reach out to one another and never let go!
- Written by Dana
Tags: americorps, Lynne Poulton, NEO Literacy Corps, Wholly Organized
Every first Friday of each month, my fellow AmeriCorps NEO literacy team gets together for training. These gatherings are very helpful and a good time away from our busyness of our host sites. The first training of this brand new year took place in the wonderful warm setting at the Family Connections.
The day began with a tour of the facility that felt very comfortable for everyone. As we return to session we then broke out into Soft Skills classes. I took part of Professional Development, which was led by Lynne Poulton. She was a very compassionate and motivator in what she did and said that day.
An activity that was presented that I will never forget was the personality tree. As an audience we were engaged with the discussion. We shared ideas and personal characteristics of good employees and ways to improve as an employee. Mrs. Poulton gave us worksheets that had true stories that made my group think of solutions that could of happen.
One of the components of the segment that I learned from my active participation was to have patience in all I do. She was a very great instrument by helping me to get organized with time and working with others.
- Written by Jon
Learn more about Lynne Poulton and the services she offers through Wholly Organized at http://www.wholly-organized.com.
Tags: americorps, cleveland, Esperanza, literacy, NEO Literacy Corps, ohio
This month, I’ve been building a new process from scratch that allows all students to receive tutoring that are part of Esperanza’s programs. During the initial meeting with my supervisor, when ideas and suggestions were flying off the wall, I was feeling very overwhelmed. I’ve never held leadership of something so significant in an organization that is recognized for its greatness in Cleveland. There are so many components to creating a new program: from creating a proposal and recruiting volunteers, to coordinating classes and preparing an orientation, I was part of all of it. Fortunately, I had tons of support from all Esperanza staff, and I am very thankful for all that they have done for this program to move forward. If it wasn’t for them, the vision my supervisor and I had would never have come together as nicely as it has. I believe if Esperanza’s staff continues to collaborate, this program will continue even when I am gone.
- Written by Adria
Tags: americorps, Martin Luther KIng Jr Day, National Day of Service, NEO Literacy Corps, service, volunteer
A couple of weeks ago, the NEO Literacy Corps participated in a National Day of Service in conjunction with Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. I was amazed by how many people showed up to help paint classrooms and a mural at a local high school. They were not just AmeriCorps members, but community members and students from the high school. It was really great seeing community members come together to help improve the environment for local high school students.
Even more inspirational was the second half of the day, which NEOLC spent with Golden Ciphers, a local non-profit agency that works with aiding families. I think a lot of the Corps Members were a little apprehensive about what the afternoon would hold, but that quickly went away thanks to a mixture of activities, including poetry writing/reading and a talent show. Clients from Golden Ciphers, young and old, shared their struggles and happy moments with us through poetry readings, raps, and a taste of African drumming. It reminded me that this is why I have gone into service rather than a more permanent job — to be able to help and give voices to those in the community. It’s about the people we serve, rather than selfish desires or another addition to our resumes.
- Written by Julia
Tags: americorps, Lexington-Bell Community Center, literacy, NEO Literacy Corps
My great story this month has less to do directly with literacy, and more to do with feeling lucky to spend a big part of my holiday season in the neighborhood centers. If kids can’t get you out of a Grinchy, holiday funk, then I’m not really sure what can. Aside from just the holidays, December housed a tragedy that shook the entire country—even the entire world. I remember making holiday-shaped sugar cookies with a group of first and second graders the day of the news. I left the center in the evening covered in flour, almost in tears, and found myself turning on holiday music for the first time of the year when I got into my car. I was so thankful for Goodrich-Gannett Neighborhood Center that day.
A week later, it was the student’s last day of classes before their anticipated two week break. Each of the centers prepared their own array of holiday programming that would be performed for their family and friends. I watched and helped as tiny students tried to pin down the words to “Little Drummer Boy,” as a group of fourth graders prepared a holiday, hip hop dance routine, and as another group memorized the lines of festive poetry to be recited. What I didn’t see, for reasons I could later explain, was one young man practicing his rendition of a well-known Christmas gospel.
Lexington-Bell Community Center’s Annual Christmas Program was the last holiday spectacular I would view before heading home to begin my holiday vacation. The program was great. The costumes were creative, cute, and some were just awkward enough to cause a bit of comedic relief (i.e. the three year old group who had been dressed up in wrapping paper covered boxes to each look like a walking, talking gift).
Just as everyone prepared to get up, give hugs and head out into the blizzard, one of the after-school staffers announced that there would be an unplanned performance. A high school student wanted to sing a song for everyone. As the room grew quiet again, we watched as a young man walked to the front and grabbed the microphone in a perfectly confident way. I had met this student the first day I started this year. He is extremely kind, light-hearted, and had been diagnosed as developmentally delayed from a young age. To me, he is the student who helped turn around one of my most difficult days of service early in the year by saying, “I’m really glad you’re here today.”
He began belting out the lyrics of a Christmas gospel—one I had never heard— but one that many around me seemed to know quite well. Soon, the whole room was clapping along. I was clapping, too. The smiles in the room were huge. It was the best energy you could imagine being surrounded by. The song continued for five minutes or so. I knew I loved that moment, but it took me til the next day to put it even more into perspective.
This is just one reason, but one of the best reasons, that moment was so great: I have become a part of a place where students feel comfortable enough to be themselves.
Valuable lesson learned:
If a student wants to sing, let them sing. It will likely help them grow in more ways than you can even see.
Thanks for that, Lexington-Bell.
- Written by Ellyn
Tags: americorps, English class, literacy, Literacy Cooperative, NEO Literacy Corps, writing
In my tenure as an English instructor, it has most often been a struggle to get students to write. For a while I believed it all centered on the topic. A well-chosen prompt would elicit paragraphs upon paragraphs. Well, sometimes, but mostly, rarely!
I had a breakthrough while attending the Professional Learning Community class with Carmine Stewart. She introduced us to the concept of macro- and micro- writing examination. While the natural inclination of an English teacher is to pounce on the grammar and punctuation mistakes immediately; for timid, reluctant writers, that is certain death to future writing!
The trick Carmine then shared with us was to initiate two-way journals with all the students. Give them choices in topics to write about and instruct them to write with no deep concern for spelling, grammar, punctuation, and that those categories would not be “graded.” The next step was for the teacher to read the journal entries and give feedback–not criticism–and then ask them to respond to the feedback. I did this the same day I learned it at the workshop.
Since the beginning of the two-way writing experience, homework has been completed and on time. There is something special about this “dialogue” between teacher and student. Curiosity and the unexpected are evoked on both sides. I am looking at content and the flow of thoughts over the syntax. They are more relaxed about what they’re communicating and some great stories and anecdotes have been revealed. The process has made English class something to look forward to for all of us!
- Written by Annie
Tags: americorps, NEO Literacy Corps, service
The holidays always remind me of why I have chosen to work in a service field. There are many people who take advantage of the generosity of others, and I have seen a lot of that. But there is always that one person who has the greatest need but has the humblest heart. I was fortunate enough to meet another woman just this way again this year. It always renews my commitment to what I do when I meet this person.
During our holiday gift distribution we worked very hard to get donations for gifts for our families. We were not as successful this year as last year but we had enough to donations to make sure that our families would have presents for thier children. Some of our families are in more than one of our programs, which is very good. However, on this occasion, it was not. Becasue of our limited resources we had to give program families invitations to pick up gifts, that would maximize our ability to include everyone.
We were at a gift distribution party. One young lady who was receiving gifts for her children ask how she could get an invitation to the agency distribution. My response to her was that if you were at this party you would not receive an invitation to the larger event. There was another young lady there who was receiving gifts at this event who had also received an invitation. I asked if she was going to attend the event on Friday and she told me she was, “if there was free gifts she was getting as many as she could” is her answer. This is the type of person that makes the holiday hard for me. I watch people who are really in need who cannot receive services because those who are in greed always seem to get served first.
During the organizational event, I met the young lady who redeemed the holidays for me. She had six children and just wanted to get something nice for them. She was assigned a personal shopper and was taken around the “Department Store” that we created. It was really the multi-purpose room that we transformed into a department store. She was very hesitant to take more than she was told she needed, even when she was told that she could take it for her children. She was the kind of person that I want to help. She is not in need because she is lazy or has an undue sense of entitlement. She was effected by the economy and wanted to do something nice for her children.
It if was not for individuals like her, it would be very difficult for me to serve during the holidays. But fortunately for me, there always seems to be one person that I meet during this time of year that makes all the work and sacrifice worth it for me.
- Written by Sandra