My whole life I have always enjoyed working with children. Their energy and potential to achieve drives me to be a better person everyday. I have always been a sucker when those faces smile at me. Since I was fifteen I have been working in school settings with students from grades K-5. Even with all that experience nothing prepared me for how these children in West Philly would change my life. My experience as an AV has changed my perspective on student life and privileges that people do not realize they have. When first working at Our Mother of Sorrows/ St. Ignatius school I could see clear differences between the schools I’ve known in my lifetime and this inner city school. I never realize that every school is not guaranteed a park for kids to play in, athletic equipment, art materials, etc. These things are a privilege, not a right. For my year of service I was placed at this school to be a teacher’s aide for the pre-K, K, 1st, and 2nd grades. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity.
One of my biggest challenges from this year has been realizing the reality of these student’s lives and learning about their experiences outside of school. Students don’t always have a good home support system and parents/adults who will take the time to sit down and work with them after school. Because of this, the teachers realize they need to work twice as hard to help their students learn in order for them to have the greatest chance of success. The faculty is a family at this school and we all work together to make the day run smoothly. I do my best to be a good example for these students and make sure they know I will be a support for them in any way I can. I love every day that I get to be at my service site helping out these classes. Knowing that these students count on me to be at work everyday and help them with tests or play with them outside makes me feel I have a sense of purpose in life. Through this experience I have decided to pursue a degree in early childhood education after my year of service.
My greatest joy during my year has been being able to see the progress my students have made. In the other times in my life that I have worked in a school I have never been given the opportunity to do an entire year from start to finish with a class. I feel like a proud parent when they come up to me to show me how well they did on a test or read me a story they have been struggling with. Like all children they laugh, sing, dance, and play together. You would never know the kind of pain some of these students carry just by looking at them. I love being a part of that happiness. By teaching them how important school is and showing them what kind of opportunities are out there for them gives me hope that these students will create better lives for themselves. Being an Augustinian Volunteer is a great honor and the most humbling experience I have had.
Philadelphia, PA 2016-2017