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October 19, 2016

College of Charleston partnership leads college student to AmeriCorps

College of Charleston is a valuable community partner and provides Reading Partners with more than 100 volunteer tutors each year. Though students come and go, each class of attendees at the college remains committed to helping the community of Charleston during their four years of residency.

Rachel Jaffe, a volunteer tutor, now AmeriCorps site coordinator, is a great example of why Reading Partners’ collaboration with the College of Charleston is so important.

In the spring of her senior year at College of Charleston, Rachel first learned about Reading Partners. Rachel was looking for a fulfilling opportunity that would incorporate her love of working with kids and education. As Rachel browsed through College of Charleston’s Civic Engagement volunteer listserv, she found Reading Partners. At the time, Reading Partners was looking for volunteers to tutor elementary school students at Memminger Elementary, just a short walk from Rachel’s sorority house.

“When I walked in for the first day of tutoring, I knew that Reading Partners would change my life.”

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Rachel quickly fell in love with the program, as well as the spunky second grader she spent 45 minutes with every Thursday. “Reading Partners was so organized. I didn’t feel like I could fail. The curriculum was there, there was training, and there was someone on site that could answer questions. I never had to wonder what the next step was.” Though it took Rachel a few weeks to make a meaningful connection with her student, Darius, one day, it clicked. “Ever since [that day], we made great strides every second we spent together,” which truly made the experience worthwhile for Rachel and for Darius, who was gaining valuable reading skills and confidence.

After only a semester of volunteering, Rachel knew that she wanted Reading Partners to be an even bigger part of her life. In the spring of 2016, Rachel applied to be a site coordinator with Reading Partners through Americorps and was beyond thrilled when she was offered the position in April. Now, Rachel serves as the site coordinator at Memminger Elementary, the same school where her journey with Reading Partners first began. She also doesn’t just serve one student, one day a week; she will serve more than 60 students this year at her site, with the help of more than 100 volunteer tutors, many of whom are current College of Charleston students.

“I walk through the hallways and the students turn and ask me, ‘Ms. Jaffe! Ms. Jaffe! Can I come to Reading Partners today?’”

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One of the many students asking to come to Reading Partners every day is Darius, Rachel’s former tutee. Now in third grade, Darius still gets to come to Reading Partners, but he is elated that he gets to see both Rachel, and one of his new tutors, Officer Neil, the security officer at Memminger Elementary. Officer Neil and Darius are a great pair, and Rachel was glad to have the experience of hand-picking both of Darius’ tutors to ensure Darius’ experience with Reading Partners would remain positive.  “I get to see him continue to grow and see another person build the relationship that was so special to me. Since I get to have a relationship with 60 other students this year, it’s a little easier to share [Darius] with someone else,” Rachel says with a smile.

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Rachel’s experience as an AmeriCorps site coordinator is truly enriching her life, and helping her to figure out her next career path. “Being able to navigate through the moving parts [of a school] would help with any position in my future career, especially in education, which is where I eventually want to be,” Rachel says. “My love and passion for this program and these students has grown exponentially in the few short weeks I’ve been at Memminger.”

As our partnerships in South Carolina communities continue to grow, our relationship with College of Charleston resonates as a powerful example of what a measurable difference volunteers can make in just one hour a week. Our hope is that by providing a meaningful volunteer experience, like Rachel’s own experience with our program, we will inspire individuals to continue a lifetime of service and commitment to getting things done in communities across the United States and around the world.

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