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November 29, 2017

New to Service: A Q&A with New Site Coordinators

This time last year, I was living in my home state of South Carolina and looking for opportunities to become engaged in service to my community. Throughout my search, one organization kept coming up over and over: Reading Partners. The thing that made Reading Partners stand out when compared to other organizations was their vision statement, “We envision a future where all children in the US have the reading skills necessary to reach their full potential.” At the time, that quote piqued my interest and inspired me to serve. Today, as I sit in my classroom as a site coordinator with Reading Partners, that same vision keeps me grounded in why I chose to serve and inspires me to work hard for my students.

I began my first term of service as a part-time AmeriCorps member last January and started my second term this fall. Now, approaching the midpoint of my second term, I have started to reflect on how my feelings have changed during service and what I’ve gained from my experience thus far. Through this reflection, I became curious about the feelings of members that recently began their year of service.

At the beginning of my second term, I met some of the most interesting and insightful people at Reading Partners AmeriCorps Orientation. Now several months later, I contacted some of these new site coordinators to hear about how they feel about their first few months of service with Reading Partners.

I received responses from six current site coordinators serving with Reading Partners in the Los Angeles area:

Susan Cho (SC),

Kathleen Callahan (KC),

Yesenia Guerrero (YG),  

Natasha Eggleston (NE),

Winnie Bee (WB),

Lauren Flemming (LF).

Susan Cho works with a student Susan Cho works with a student

Q: What made you decide to do a service year with Reading Partners and AmeriCorps?

YG: I decided to do a service year with Reading Partners because I believe that establishing a strong foundation for reading skills is crucial to how our students will perform through the 12th grade and beyond. Unfortunately, so many students are falling through the cracks of our education system, especially if their learning style does not fit the style of a classroom full of kids. Reading Partners really puts focus on individualized attention and creating plans that work for each individual student and that was a huge factor in pursuing this service year.

LF: I recently moved back to the United States and had no idea what I wanted to do. I only knew that I wanted to work with people and do something where you could see a difference being made. In my job search, I came across Reading Partners and was immediately drawn to their mission. I read a little bit more about Reading Partners and AmeriCorps and decided to apply!

Q: What do you know now, that you wish you knew before your service term began?

LF: I wish I had known how many hours I was going to be putting in daily. I knew how many hours I needed to do for the whole year, but I underestimated how many hours I was going to work each day. I’m still in the process of learning how to manage my time – both at work and outside of work.

KC: I wish I knew how large of a chunk of time the tutor coaching and relationship building would take out of our day to day at our centers. I thought my attention would be focused mostly on student and their academic development, but it turns out a lot of our service has to be tutor-related.

Q: What about the position of Site Coordinator has surprised you the most since starting the job?

NE: I think the most surprising thing is that this job is so customer service oriented. I don’t think I realized the delicacies of training volunteers while also trying to keep them extremely happy and dedicated to the program. I think I *knew* that before I started, but didn’t realize what it would actually feel/look like once I was in service.

KC: I was most surprised with how quickly our teachers and school staff welcomed me to our school. We are in our fifth year at Carthay, and Reading Partners has an amazing reputation amongst teachers, students, staff, and especially parents. I was surprised at how quickly they were to trust me and validate me in my position as site coordinator.

WB: What surprised me the most was the opportunity for relationship building within the cohort (fellow AmeriCorps members). I thought that because I will be the only person at my site, I wouldn’t have much interaction with the other site coordinators. It has been very helpful being able to discuss successes and challenges with the other coordinators, as well as being free to ask them any questions.

Q: What is your favorite part of the day as a site coordinator?

WB: My favorite part of the day is the morning before my first session at 9 am. I usually get to school at 8 am so I have a guaranteed hour to myself where I can get ready for the day and relax before school starts.

LF: My favorite part of the day is seeing tutors and students together. Each person brings something different into the reading center and to their sessions. I love seeing the students learn from the tutors and vice versa!

YG: My favorite part of the day as a site coordinator is recess/lunch recess because my classroom has become quite a popular hangout spot for students. Being able to take a step back from the chaos my daily routine and knowing that my classroom is a safe space where students choose to spend their free time is really rewarding.

Q: What are your future goal(s), and how is your service year helping or preparing you to meet them?

SC: I’m looking into getting a Master of Arts in education, specializing in speech or reading, and Reading Partners is providing the invaluable experience of working directly with students in that realm.

NE: In the future, I want to get my master’s degree in Social Work, and I’d love to work for an educational nonprofit or at a school. I’m still debating whether I want to focus on managing programs or working one on one with individuals. Reading Partners is helping me prepare by giving me some of that management experience as well as allowing me to work so independently. It is definitely helping me find different things I am passionate about or that I don’t enjoy about this specific type of work environment.

KC: I am interested in continuing my work with academic intervention as a potential career. My service year with Reading Partners is preparing me for this career as I continue to learn more about literacy and what Tier II support looks like for students and schools.

LF: I would like to continue working in education. I taught for the past few years, but now my year with Reading Partners is giving me insight into another side of education. I like that Reading Partners allows me to try out something new and see if I enjoy it.

YG: My goal is to get a master’s in social work and to ultimately work in a school as a mental health advocate in the role of a counselor, school social worker, or anything along those lines. I firmly believe that mental health is so important and the lack of resources that some students face encourages me to make them more accessible. My service year is giving me a unique opportunity by allowing me to take a look at how students work with and really benefit from 1:1 interactions.

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