Sarah Sam’s Story of Service

At the beginning of the year, I began observing Kindergarten Response to Intervention (RTI) groups, knowing that I was to eventually have a group of my own. RTI groups, I learned, are for students who are just below the reading benchmark to give them small group attention and support to boost their reading level. I spent each of these observations hidden in my notebook, writing down every detail that I could possibly cram in during the lessons. I was both terrified and excited to have my own group.

Just a few weeks later, I had my own group. As I looked at the four Kindergartners sitting across the table from me, my heart beat fast. How would I help to instill language in these students – and what if I hurt them more than helped them? I had certainly never done anything like this before.

I followed my notes as best as I could, but what I soon realized is that teaching requires way more than a few scribbled pages of notes. My notes could not help me figure out the correct way to keep Danelis from shouting out every answer before her classmates had a chance, or how to get Jennifer to be more confident in her answers.

As weeks turned into months, my four Kindergartners and I had become something like a family. During our half an hour together, we counted words, retold stories and practiced rhymes and letters. Although the beginning of the year had seemed slow, suddenly our family knew all 26 letters! However, something still felt daunting to me. How would these seemingly small abilities, turn into reading?

Eventually I decided that it was time to try a book, even though I was terrified of how it would go. Each book had some words we had been practicing on the cover. I took a deep breath and handed them out. Before I could even begin introducing the title, Jennifer pointed to one of the words and said “Look! Was!” I let out my breath and smiled. They truly had been soaking in all of our lessons and they were ready to read.

At the beginning of the year, I was so afraid of hindering the learning of these students. Soon I realized that the students had many teachers besides me: their classroom teachers, families, and the world around them, and most importantly themselves. The students had worked hard to soak in all of the information and had desired to learn. It felt amazing to be a part of something as essential as a student acquiring language.

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Economic Opportunity

Here at The Learning Community, students are given many opportunities. The school has worked to build a great sense of community among students, teachers and families, and we explore together what it means for our community to be reaching for a common goal.

Students are offered free breakfast, lunch and a snack every day at school. I feel this is key for our students to be able to focus and learn throughout the day. The students also have a choice to get dinner in our after school program to help them stay focused and get through their long days at school.

Another great way our school shows economic opportunity is our dress code. All students must wear brand-free clothing and if they do not have access to such we provide them with dark blue pants and light blue shirts. Students must wear the appropriate uniform to school every day. This eliminates any kind of favoritism, or even bullying because of what a student is wearing. There is no debate on who is the “cool kid” because of what a student is wearing.

Our school does a great job giving each of our students the same economic opportunity and I’m so pleased and honored to be a part of it. Here is a picture of some of our smiling faces during lunch time!

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Winter Involvement: Generations of Learning

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Our AmeriCorps team at Generations of Learning in Woonsocket has spent the winter thus far doing everything possible to immerse ourselves 100% in our site, Coleman Elementary School.

Our purpose as AmeriCorps members is to do everything possible to be there for our students, and help them to succeed academically.  Our goal is to help provide them with a school environment that is conducive to learning; where they can be themselves, feel safe, and know that the people around them care.

Over the winter break one of our members, lovingly referred to as “Mimi”, painted an amazing mural in the cafeteria of our school.  She is an incredible artist, and the response to her mural was wonderful.  The students were not only excited and fascinated, but grateful.

For our Martin Luther King Jr. Day project, our team spent hours scrubbing down the boys and girls bathrooms outside of the cafeteria.  Mimi also gave the doors a couple of fresh coats of paint, and she even painted plaques on each door for the girls and the boys.  I had quite a few students tell me how much they appreciated everything we did and how beautiful they found the plaques to be.

We are currently in the second session of our after-school program in which our members are offering classes ranging from Robotics and Mad Science, to Movin’ and Groovin’ and Crochet.  Most students are truly enjoying their experiences in the program because it gives them the opportunity to let loose, be kids, and learn amazing things in fun and innovative ways.

It broke my heart not very long ago, when a third grade student approached me to tell me that she wishes her school could afford playground equipment and technology.  She said, “Our school is poor.  It’s hard to say, but it’s true; we’re poor.”  I didn’t know how to respond.

I know that a beautiful mural, clean bathrooms with freshly painted doors, and an enjoyable after school program are not a playground or technology, but I believe that what our AmeriCorps team is doing for Coleman is truly making a difference for these students, and helping them to realize that there are people out there that care about them.  It’s not always an easy job, but it is one that we love doing and will continue to do: for the students.

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Holiday Hoopla! The Spirit of Giving and Service

The end of the holiday season is an important time for reflection. Our corps members at The Learning Community are reflecting on our time with students and our fellow corps members.
To help get us in the holiday spirit our program director hosted a winter celebration at her home in early December. It was a great time to relax and get to know each other better. We played fun games and shared quirky gifts. It prepared us for the final two weeks before winter vacation.
As we went into our winter break it was hard to believe that we wouldn’t see our students for two weeks! We didn’t know what we would do with ourselves. For some of us our break was a time to spend with friends and family and for others it was time to get much-needed rest.
The break gave me time to look over my student’s work once again. As I looked over their work I saw different ways that I could help them better when I returned from break. With help from the Math Specialist I made two to three objectives for each student to work on for the rest of the quarter. These objectives included working on dividing decimals to using a different strategy for multiplying large numbers. In the short week we have been back I have seen how these objectives have already helped the students. For example, there was a student who didn’t want to do any work in class, now he completed all of his work before the other students. Although it is great serving the students, it is nice to take a break and think deeper about why we are doing what we are doing.
We came back to service rested and empowered to finish the year strong. Our break gave us time to reflect and step away from our daily work, but also time to consider how we are growing as teachers. We are looking forward to new opportunities to learn from our peers and students.

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College Advising Corps Secret Santa!

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In the month of December we were very busy with college applications that we barely saw each other! So to keep the holiday spirit we decided to do a secret santa! There is our secret santa selfie! :)

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Warm Fuzzies

AmeriCorps members at The Learning Community in Central Falls get together every week for a check-in, a time when we share successes and challenges and learn together as a supportive team. We bring with us a small glass jar with a purple ribbon around its neck, a vessel appropriately decorated for its contents. The jar contains “warm fuzzies,” short thoughts and kind words of appreciation, thanks, and love captured by Learning Community AmeriCorps members during the previous week. At our weekly gatherings, we pass the jar around and take turns reading a “warm fuzzy” aloud, sharing in the gratitude we feel toward each other. This is one of the highlights of our weekly meetings for me, and I’d like to share a few of my own recent ideas on gratitude in the context of our work at The Learning Community.

Dear Learning Community AmeriCorps members,

Thank you for being a great group of people to work with, hang out with, and with whom I can share experiences this year. Your camaraderie and friendship have made my transition to this job a lot easier than it would otherwise have been; for that I am grateful. I look forward to continuing to get to know each of you as the individuals you are throughout the year.

Dawn

Dear Students,

…Students, the real teachers here. :) Yes, you’re teaching me how to be a teacher and how to be a leader in my personal and professional endeavors.  And I thought I was supposed to be helping you learn that…turns out we’re learning together. Thank you for making me laugh, challenging me, and reminding me to never give up.

Dawn

Dear AmeriCorps,

Thank you for this opportunity to learn and work for a year, to pour energy and ideas into something I think is important. I feel very lucky to participate in this school environment, and it is helping me learn what I want to do in the future. Thank you for all the support you give members to grow as citizens, thinkers, and professionals.

Dawn

Dear Learning Community,

It is not every day that an individual works for a school that puts as much an emphasis on continued professional learning as you do. I appreciate the ongoing opportunities you offer AmeriCorps members to learn educational strategies and methods and professional skills, strengthen interpersonal connections, and increase our involvement in the community.

Dawn

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Giving Thanks and Volunteering

The month of November is upon us and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Now is the perfect time to give thanks and show gratitude for our families, friends, colleagues and neighbors.

Volunteering in all black at the Waterfire for Veterans!

This past Saturday the Tri-town team decided to brave the bitter cold air and volunteer our time to give thanks. Helping in what little way we can to honor our fellow Veterans for their unwavering commitment to serve our country.

Witnessing the amount of hard work and preparation put into the seemingly effortless display of the Waterfire was astonishing. The beautiful sight of the flames reflecting against the city river never ceases to amaze. Knowing that these lights were ablaze as a memorial to the Veterans of past and present warms the heart. We often take for granted those who have selflessly offered up their lives in order for us to live out ours in freedom.

At the office, we have assisted in the incoming LIHEAP (Low-Income Heating Energy Assistance Programs) applications for the year while engaging with the local community as much as we can. During food bank days we offer our assistance in outreach to the incoming clients. We also have sign-ups for those interested in receiving a little thanksgiving basket for the month of November.

During our limited free time, some of us are creating visual fact sheets on household budgets. In hopes increase awareness and educate some of the incoming clients on how to better assess and utilize available funds.

The work at the office has been hectic. A challenge that we embrace full-on with our open hearts and strong minds. Knowing that the more people we meet in need of our assistance– the larger impact we are making to the greater community. The thank-yous and sighs of relief that result from our help has made the sometimes chaotic work all the more rewarding.

To be someone’s “yes” in a world that says “no” is what makes us look forward to another day at the office. The gratitude we receive positively impacts our work here at Emergency Services. It motivates us to continually strive to make another person’s day/situation/lives better even if it is for just that brief moment.

So, I encourage everyone to give thanks to those around you. It will not only make that person’s day much brighter, but I guarantee it will help you gain a better appreciation of all the blessings around you big and small.

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