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As a 28 year old who had never left the comfort of being within a 30 mile radius of my family and childhood friends, taking the step to move across the country to become a member of the Colorado Reading Corps was a big decision for me. I grew up in the rural area of Southern Illinois, attended college at Southern Illinois University, where I received my degree in Art History and continued my career in education at a small childcare facility that was very community-oriented. Even though I loved my job and life there, I was ready for a change.
I had heard through the grapevine that AmeriCorps was a wonderful way to gain some much needed post-college experience, while helping improve our country and communities through dedicating a year to service. This immediately appealed to me. As I scoured the AmeriCorps website for positions that were available, I found many that caught my interest. I applied for a variety of programs and had almost decided on one in Minnesota, working with at-risk youth, when I stumbled upon the Colorado Reading Corps. The name alone instantly got my attention; I have been an avid reader since childhood and believe that a strong foundation in literacy is the key to being a well-educated individual. I had an instant feeling that this program was the one for me. I applied, interviewed and accepted the service term of 11 months and 1,700 hours of service. I was ecstatic.
Next began the quest for housing and actually making the long trek to Colorado, all 981 miles of it. With the aide of my wonderful girlfriend, we were able to find affordable housing in Greeley, and with help from family we packed up, down sized and hit the road with two trucks and a car loaded down with our possessions. A few weeks after moving in and getting settled, I headed off for training, where I met a group of strangers, many of whom would soon become my friends. The amount of information provided at these trainings is enough to induce headaches in even the most strong minded of people. I was nervous, worried that I didn’t have the organizational skills needed to keep all the information orderly, afraid that I would get to my school and not know what I was doing or how to begin. After meeting my wonderful internal coach, Rona Anderson, and getting acquainted with my school, these fears subsided. I began my service with confidence and have strived to continue being a better tutor each and every day.
I love working with the students one on one, getting to know them as individuals and watching the growth they make in reading. This is the most satisfying part of my position. The students who struggle the most become the most rewarding to watch succeed. I find that the key to success with these students is to fine tune the tutoring sessions to meet their specific needs. It’s about finding what motivates them, what makes them want to succeed, and what kinds of stories intrigue them and hold their interest. I usually figure these things out through trial and error, but once I figure out my student, it is amazing how quickly their fluency and reading skills grow. When students finally reach their criteria to exit the program, I always feel a mixture of pride and sadness. I am proud of their success, but sad that I no longer get to work with that student that I have come to know so well. Many students are also reluctant to leave the program, but luckily, we continue to check in with them to make sure they are staying on track with their reading goals.
I have had a wonderful experience as a Colorado Reading Corps tutor and would recommend this position to anyone who wants to make a positive impact on their community, increase literacy in children, and help make the world a better place for future generations. (You also get to do a lot of cool service outside of the school that you probably normally wouldn’t do on your own.) AmeriCorps has pushed me to become a more involved, conscientious, and outgoing person, and I couldn’t be happier about my decision to join!
This material is based upon work supported by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) under AmeriCorps Grant No. 12AFHCO0010013. Opinions or points of view expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of, or a position that is endorsed by, CNCS or the AmeriCorps program.
Copyright 2015 United Way of Larimer County