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May 15, 2024

A life of service: How this AmeriCorps member came to serve the same community he grew up in

William Flores, a.k.a. WillFlo, is a multi-talented Salvadorian American organizer, event planner, published poet, aspiring author, and founder of the South Central Arts, an arts organization based in LA. He’s also serving as an AmeriCorps member with Reading Partners as the first senior literacy lead in Los Angeles.

Will has had an amazing life, from his roots in South Central LA to beginning his service term last year in the same area where he grew up. We’re honored that he chose to serve with AmeriCorps and lend his life experience to the students in LA. We decided to ask him a few questions about how he ended up here, what he does as an AmeriCorps member, and what he plans to do next.

What were you doing before you joined AmeriCorps at Reading Partners?

In 2021, I graduated from Los Angeles Trade-Technical College with an associate of arts degree in community planning and economic development. From 2020 to 2023, I was working on a project called the Green Alley Network as the director of community engagement. As part of my work, we installed eleven murals that reflected the voice of the South Central LA community. It was my job to ensure South Central LA’s community and voice were well represented. 

This project overlapped with my initial half-service term with Reading Partners in 2023 and the beginning of my full-time service term in 2024. 

Why did you decide to serve? 

During the last year of working on the Green Alley Network project, we had already exhausted the funds that I was relying on for income, so I needed to find a new way to make money fast. I also was going through a tough time fighting my way out of homelessness.

I applied to many different places, but Reading Partners LA was the most responsive and quickest to reply. 

I have worked with people from different backgrounds and identities from seniors to teens, but I had yet to work with kids. With Reading Partners, I had that opportunity, so I accepted the offer.  

I was blessed to be placed at Para Los Niños as they are close to and serve many families from my community of South Central. I love serving my community. 

willfo

What does your day-to-day look like as an AmeriCorps member?

I’m a senior literacy lead at Para Los Niños (my reading center), so my role has me conducting the in-person tutoring sessions Monday-Thursday. My day usually starts with set up and admin work before I pick up my first student. 

After we walk to the reading center together, I read a grade-level book to the student for 10 minutes before we go into the lesson. During the lesson, I walk the students through an easy-to-follow curriculum that our in-person volunteers also use. 

In the above video, I describe this portion of the lesson as us learning together. It’s been so long since I learned these literacy skills, so I relearn them myself as I tutor my students. 

I really enjoy the SEL (Social Emotional Learning) lessons as this helps us to learn ways to better handle challenges in life. I also really enjoy coaching them through the Student Read Aloud. This is where I listen closely and catch patterns of errors or difficulties that the student is having in their reading. I then correct them, give them advice, and make an individual reading plan that will help them in the future.

After 45 minutes, the session ends and I write my notes. Then, I get ready for my next student. I typically work with five students on their literacy skills each day.

willflo

What is your favorite part of AmeriCorps service?

My favorite part of AmeriCorps is by far the service days. A few times a year, all of the Reading Partners AmeriCorps members come together and serve our community at a different capacity with all hands on deck.

Has your time with AmeriCorps and Reading Partners impacted your future goals?

I was already working on my first book before coming to Reading Partners, but my experience here has really inspired me to make this dream come true. I hope to publish it before turning 40 in January 2025. You can follow my journey and find a link to my book when it comes out here.

This book of poetry contains many poems written in four quatrains (16 bar verse) and made to flow with almost any four-count instrumental. Influenced by hip-hop, my writing tells a lyrical story about my life and my perception of it and is filled with positive and empowering messages that can help us through those tough times.

What do you plan to do after completing your service term? 

After my service term ends this summer, I hope to visit Japan and the Philippines, resting and working on another one of my projects: an organization I co-founded with Ken KJ Onoda-Song called Good Cats Era which helps to bring art to communities that need it around the world.

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