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June 4, 2018

Grace's journey from AmeriCorps member to full-time staff

When she first joined Reading Partners as a site coordinator in the Twin Cities, Grace had no idea she would end up staying with the organization much longer than her initial AmeriCorps term. Upon completing her first year, Grace then served as a regional site coordinator for a second year, but she didn’t stop there.

Inspired by her two years of service, Grace knew she wanted to pursue a full-time staff role with Reading Partners. She truly embodies the spirit of Reading Partners in her commitment to educational equity and improving children’s literacy development.

After earning her master’s in elementary education, Grace returned to Reading Partners as a program associate in the Twin Cities. Now, she serves as a role model and mentor for AmeriCorps members looking to launch careers in nonprofit and education fields.

I spoke with Grace to learn more about her commitment to early literacy and her career trajectory at Reading Partners.

Why did you initially decide to serve a year with Reading Partners?

While I was in school I chose to major in public health education because I knew I wanted to be an educator, I was just unsure in what capacity. I have always felt a passion towards helping others, so in my last year at the University of Minnesota, I started looking into AmeriCorps. It wasn’t until I found an open AmeriCorps position with Reading Partners that I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

When I was younger, I struggled as a reader and with Reading Partners I could change that experience for other students.

How did you know a long-term career in literacy education was something you wanted to pursue?

I struggled with reading as a child and had a very hard time with the interventions I received. I often felt singled out or embarrassed and wanted to change that experience for students.

Knowing how much the ability to read impacts your life, I knew it was something that was important to pursue. And I felt personally connected to the cause.

When you struggle with reading at an early age it can be more difficult to learn other subjects because at third grade you start applying your reading skills to learn new information. That’s why it’s so vital to catch kids up before they fall too far behind.

How did your work vary from your first term of service to your second?

My second term of service was so different than my first term. In my second term I felt so much more confident in what I was doing and was able to use my knowledge to help new AmeriCorps members. In this way I was able to step into a mentorship role and learn more about how to teach others. I loved my second term because I was able to use my knowledge from the first term and expand on it, allowing me to reach more students.  

What made you want to stay with Reading Partners after your AmeriCorps terms?

I knew from the first quarter of my time serving with Reading Partners I wanted to come back because of what the program stands for and because of the amount of support I received in my first year. We were and are a tight knit group that cared for one another, and we had the same mission in mind.

I work with some of the most inspiring and supportive people and love what I am doing. It made perfect sense to stay!

What do you do in your current role?

I am now a program associate which means I manage three school sites and three AmeriCorps members. I spend most of my time in schools working with site coordinators on troubleshooting lessons to make sure they fit with our students’ needs.

I get to work alongside current AmeriCorps members and help them be successful in their roles. I also get to help AmeriCorps members pursue their goals after their year of service.

What is your favorite part of working at Reading Partners?

My favorite part working here would be that I get to work with students and meet them where they are. To allow students time to work at their own pace is so great because you get to highlight all the amazing things they are already doing and build from there.

What advice would you give to someone considering doing an AmeriCorps term with Reading Partners?

My advice would be to jump on it! I don’t want to sugarcoat it because the work has pushed me to grow and stressed me out plenty of times, but I wouldn’t change any of it. If you are looking for experience in education or thinking about pursuing teaching, Reading Partners has taught me so much about K-5 literacy. It is also an organization that values their team and cares about your outcome as well.

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