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May 8, 2008

Cityview Volunteering

When I went to Cityview last week to volunteer for ACES, we (the volunteers) were given the task of surveying the students about how they feel ACES works for them. The questions were all very interesting and I got some interesting answers. Here are some examples:
- "Do you feel that there is at least one adult in the ACES program who cares for you?"
~to which I got responses like: "Yes, you are one!" and "YES!" (with a big smile on their faces
- "Do you think ACES has helped you to do better in school?"
~"Ya, it helps me get my homework done in time."
- "Do you turn all your homework in on time?"
~"Haha, no..."
-"Do you have important plans for the future?"
~"Yes, I want to be a veterinarian."
-"Do you plan on going to college?"
~ I got mostly yes's, but one student said, "No, I am not smart enough." To which I responded, "I think you could finish college if you put your mind to it. He just shrugged.
- "What is the one thing ACES could change to be better? (not including having more trips or free time)?"
~"I wish we had more organized activities in the classroom."
- "Do you ever feel that you need to use physical force to get something you want."
~"No."
-"Do you ever hit people when you feel like it."
~ Generally no's, but one student said, "Yes, but only when we play fight."

These questions, among others were asked to the students in order to gage how ACES has been affecting them, and how they view the program. Most of the students answered the questions the way one would hope they would, but every so often I would receive an answer that took me aback. Overall, though, the students really felt that ACES was a positive experience for them. They almost all said that ACES has helped them improve in school. It was really interesting to conduct the surveys. The students were all very excited to participate and the ones who we didn't get to were very disappointed. It was a nice close to my experience at Cityview, though I would love to continue volunteering there. Chad offered a place to us for next year if we wanted to return, and I am seriously contemplating going back. It has been a moving and eye opening experience to work with the kids. I have greatly enjoyed myself.

April 27, 2008

Cityview Volunteering

The last time I went to Cityview to volunteer for ACES we had a small amount of students show up, but Katie, the team leader, dealt with the situation very well. We allowed the ones who did choose to participate to draw and play games, as they were in the middle of standardized testing and didn't have any homework to complete. We talked with the students in a very comfortable, more relaxed way, as the program was very laid back that day.
I will only be going to ACES one more time, as I have my hours complete and we are rapidly approaching the period of headaches and long nights in school. I feel that it may be hard to tell the kids that I won't be coming back any more. I have been working with the same group of students throughout my experience, and while I have developed closer relationships with some students than others, it will still be strange to not see them all every week. They have taught me a lot and every time I go, I learn that there comes a time where you just need to calm down and forget about everything you have to do at home. The kids need you to really be there when you go. They deserve it.
In general, working with kids of any age, culture, religion etc can really take a toll on you, but it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life if you let it. Though I am quite sure I could never work with students on a daily basis, I do enjoy doing it intermittently.
In the summer I work as a sailing instructor for the lake that I live on. I was recently informed that the sailing school may be trying to develop a relationship with the local YMCA and other organizations to give underprivileged kids the opportunity to attend a camp in which they could spend time on the lake and learn to sail. I immediately jumped at the opportunity to help with this program. I think it would be a great thing to see kids learning to sail who REALLY wanted to do something new, as opposed to the kids I currently coach, who tend to think they are "too cool for sailing school."
This may be lame, but I envy the simplicity of their lives and I love being included in them, even for short periods of time.

April 17, 2008

Cityview Volunteering

After switching team leaders last week, for the second time, I have been able to compare the way the kids are handled from leader to leader, especially since I have been fortunate enough to remain with the same students throughout my ACES experience. I really appreciate the work the team leaders put in. It is not an easy job, and I only go once a week. To be perfectly honest, I don't think I could EVER be a teacher, I would probably lose my mind. Perhaps I could handle college students, but even so, their complaining is quite extensive.
This week at Cityview went quite well. I enjoyed working with the kids, as always, though fewer showed up this week than usual. They have standardized testing this week, so of course they have ample energy and no homework, which is not always a great combination. However, Katie, the team leader, dealt with them very well. We allowed them to have structured free time to put some of their energy into, and then of course continued to the gym.
I am really glad I have been able to stick with the same group of students throughout. Learning how to deal with certain students effectively takes more than a few days, in most cases. I also really enjoy walking in and being able to hold laid back conversations with the majority of the students I have been working with. They say hello and call me by name, which really is an awesome thin, no matter how small. I do know, however, that my experience with ACES is coming to an end. It makes me sad to think that these next few visits will be the last time I will see these students (unless, of course we continue with service learning, though they probably won't remember me in a few months). It is the same situation when the summer comes to a close and I finish working with my sailing school students. I feel like I get more attached to them than most of them are to me, though they probably never realize it. Now that I think about it, in my younger years I probably had such a huge amount of volunteers and teachers who came to work with me in school and practices, and honestly I can't remember the large majority of them, though I am sure they had an impact on my life at the time. It's strange how quickly kids can rebound and move on from people coming and going.
Anyways, now that I have become all reflective and philosophical, this week went well. I enjoyed working with Katie and the kids and I am looking forward to going back!

April 9, 2008

Cityview Volunteering

This was the first week back in the swing of things since spring break, and it seems like it has been forever since I saw the kids. I got to work with the same kids that I usually work with again this week, although the team leader switched. I really enjoyed working with the new team leader, Katie. She was really good at working with the kids, especially those who clearly didn't want to be there. She kept them very well under control which gave me more of a chance to have some one-on-one homework time with the kids as opposed to having to work on keeping them under control the whole time. I worked with one student, Cardell, this week who has always been difficult to work with. He is generally well behaved and doesn't really talk back, but at times he doesn't really talk at all. I got him to work on his homework for a short while, but towards the end, he completely shut down and wouldn't respond to me in any way. Thankfully, however, Katie had an activity for the kids. We watched a movie about the Raptor Center here on campus and the students had to fill out a worksheet. It kept them all in check until it was gym time, and it was pretty interesting (I thought). In the gym I helped twirl the jump rope, as I usually do, but then Julia and I (another volunteer) started to play along with the kids, and I think they got a kick out of it. They are all really great kids and I love working with them... most of the time.

March 6, 2008

Cityview Volunteering- Week three

This week I went to Cityview without my trusty bus partner Julia FIllingame. I was a little worried about riding the bus alone, but it turns out I recognized somebody from architecture on the bus so it was no big deal. It was Andrew's first time volunteering this week, so I tried to show him what to do, but I wanted him to be able to figure most of it out on his own, without me influencing his perceptions of the program.

This week I decided to go with the same group again, and as it turns out the same team leader as last week. Apparently our first week started at the end of a cycle, so a new one began in our second week. I hope I can develop a relationship with the kids in my group by the end of this cycle. They can sometimes be a difficult group of kids to work with, but what group doesn't have its quirks? I have really enjoyed getting to know these kids. I find it the most beneficial to just sit and let the kids talk if they wan to. One boy, Travis, always has something he wants to tell me. If I am spending time with another student, Travis will come over and show me what he has been working on, just to be sure I approve. It really makes me feel good. It is amazing, to me, how willing kids are to develop relationships with new people. They have such trust and innocence, which is totally cliché and lame, but it is true!

Again this week I noticed problem with delegation of regulations for the kids. One of the students was playing a game with me and other students and one of the traveling team leaders came over and took him away to do his homework, when two minutes before someone told him he could go play. He was crushed and started to cry. Later then, I had all the students I was working with stop playing and work on their "fish stories." The same student came over to get the game so he could play and I told him that he had to work on his fish story like everybody else. It seems like the right answer right? It seems weird that one boy would be allowed to play if nobody else can, but the same team leader as before came up to me and said that she was going to play with him as a reward for doing his homework. She said it perfectly nicely, but then I felt terrible for messing with the poor boys emotions! My point is, it could have been dealt with better. There needs to be a common goal for all the volunteers and team leaders and it needs to be communicated.

Though I know some of my blogs have been rather harsh on the program, considering what they are working with and the fact that they have volunteers coming and going, they really do a great job. Hats off to them. Really.

March 2, 2008

Cityview Volunteering- Week two

When we first arrived this past Monday we did the regular routine. We walked in, signed the visitors sheet and went to the office we were introduced to last time. We waited there until it was time to meet the students in the cafeteria, when we walked together with the boxes of activities. All the new volunteers sat at their own table while the Vets. walked around chatting with the kids they knew. We signed our hours in and the name-tags were given out, though a few of us still hadn't had them made. I asked what group we were supposed to go with and we were told we could go with anyone we wanted, unless he decided to move us around. I chose to go with the same group of kids we had gone with last time, though the group leader had changed. This fact baffled me. Why would the group leaders change? These kids become attached to the leader and then they have them taken away. Wouldn't it be more worth while to give the kids a more permanent figure in their lives than to give them 10 rotating figures? I guess, to me, the point of being a mentor figure is so you can become close to a few kids as opposed to not really knowing anything about the individuals in a large group of kids. They need permanent figures in their lives that they can feel comfortable with.

We went through the same routine as last time with the kids, though this time they had less homework to do and it was a bit less controlled. Apparently I was with a "trouble causing" group of kids this time and last, as we had many visits from the head coordinator. This time, however, he spent the majority of his time with us, along with a teacher from Cityview and an extra group leader. I guess it seemed like the kids were being inundated with rules and restrictions. I understand that there needs to be structure, but speaking form a students perspective, couldn't we give them a break? They just went through 7 hours of school or more, they don't need two more hours of sitting in a desk not being allowed to talk or relax. A few of the restrictors were being a bit intense with the rules. It just "sucked the fun" out of the room. I know the kids were trouble makers, but standing over them, literally, making sure they did not talk or stray from their "fish worksheet" was a bit much.

ACES is a great organization, don't get me wrong. But with any organization outsiders can see some flaws more readily than those who are completely immersed in the program.

I did get some drawings this time too!!!

February 11, 2008

Cityview Volunteer Experience Through ACES

So this past Saturday I decided to go out to lunch with my future roommate and her mother as she had had a huge hand in searching for apartments over winter break, being that I was in Wisconsin, and I wanted to to thank her first hand. So we went to the classic Dinkytown favorite, Annie's. I ordered a scrumptious cheeseburger and a chocolate mint malt and we got to talking. She is a a school teacher and so I was describing to her the endeavor I would be having on Monday with my trip to Cityview. She asked where it was and I said it was in North Minneapolis. Well, she gave me quite the look! She went on to explain that she had worked at a high school in North Minneapolis for a few years and frequently came home crying. Great. So, of course, I went home very nervous. I know very little about the city, but I figured that considering Cityview is a school for younger children it couldn't be THAT bad... right? I'm pretty good at talking myself into being comfortable with new and different situations.

So Monday came rolling around and I planned out what to wear, no jeans at Cityview. I packed as little as possible in my backpack considering I would be going right from class and I was off. I met Julia Fillingame at the bus stop and I had the bus route all planned out, written down, and carefully studied (I have had one too many bad experiences with the Minneapolis busing system). We took the 16 to 4th St. and 4th Ave. We hopped on the 22C, all without incident and we arrived painlessly at Cityview (painless for me at least, Julia had heels on). We went in and were escorted to an office there where we were quickly labeled as the new volunteers. We signed in and went to the cafeteria were a group of about 40 rambunctious kids quickly arrived for snack time. I must say I was a bit overwhelmed at this point. While admiring the interactions of the kids, the ACES director for the school came up to our group of Architecture volunteers and asked who was feeling strong, not physically, but you know. Julia and I were most vocal so he chose us. He explained that David's group (I think his name was David) was kinda crazy and had some pretty outgoing kids. We were up for anything. Soon we were led from the cafeteria to a classroom. I felt like one of the kids when we were walking single file up to the room. There, the kids sat down and were instructed to get out there homework, and of course everyone denied having any. With a little coercion I convinced my table to get going. Within a short amount of time Travis, Je'Nee and Sophia were warming up to me. We did their reading homework first and quickly moved on to spelling. When Sophia asked me how to spell sentimental I spelled it correctly but got nervous and thought "c-e-n... no definitely s-e-n... man am I rusty." Travis and Je'Nee were getting competitive so I decided to have a competitive spelling test between the two. It was great to see their enthusiasm.

Then came free time in the gym. We played with jump ropes, basketballs and just ran around. It was AWESOME. Though I only spent two hours with the kids, I really felt a connection to them, and I think they felt the same. It was an awesome experience and I can't wait to go back next week! All-in-all North Minneapolis has got a bad rep... or maybe I just wasn't in the right part.... how should I know?