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May 7, 2008

Service Learning Experience

Volunteering Experience
This semester, I did not continue my volunteering experience at the same organization. Previously, in Arch1281, I worked with Achieve! Minneapolis at Southwest High School. Unfortunately, we had minimal interaction with the students and our tasks were fairly work and office-oriented. However, this semester proved remarkably different and particularly beneficial. My service experience this semester was completed at Homework ‘n’ Hoops operating out of the Loring Nicollet Bethlehem Community Center in Minneapolis.
Homework ‘n’ Hoops is an after school program serving students in grade two through six. In this program, I served in a position as tutor/mentor. While the first experiences were not typical of my overall experience at homework and hoops, they were a very important part of my time there. Four early journals written after these visits recount the time fairly well.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008: Today, we met with Maurie Clipperton - the Program Manager of Elementary Education Enrichment at the Loring Nicollet Bethlehem Community Center. His main focus is running the Homework ‘n’ Hoops program. We watched a video about the program, toured the facilities, mingled with tutor/mentors and the students, and had a meeting discussing what was expected of us and what we expected of our experience. Overall, I feel very excited to begin my time with this organization.
Monday, February 10, 2008: Today, I began my service at the Loring Nicollet Bethlehem Community Center. After signing in, I was immediately partnered with a young boy named Daniel because he did not have a tutor. I quickly learned that he had been sick, but also recently returned from a trip to Mexico. We played a game of soccer with other students and tutors/mentors in the gym. Then, we returned to the "main" room. Daniel and I began our log sheet, received our snack, and then began homework designed to help him follow directions. After finishing, he was quick to suggest reading books. Together, we alternated pages of Sharks and Police Officers. Once it was time to reconvene, we finished filling out his log sheet, talked about our achievements for the day, and wrapped things up. Daniel balanced his checkbook with the points he had earned while we sat through awards and waited for dismissal. Overall, it went smoothly for being "thrown" into the program. Next time, as Maurie said, we may go through official training.
Monday, February 25, 2008: I did not continue tutoring Daniel or any other student this week because I have not yet had training. Instead, I helped prepare the center for their family night which is to be held this Thursday. I created posters for a Wheel of Fortune game and then worked on future puzzles for another year.
Monday, March 3, 2008: Today, I went through training. We prepared for working with the kids and learned methods for helping them. Loring Nicollet Bethlehem Community Center uses the ideas of Reinforce, Remind, and Redirect to help the kids - ways in which they have witnessed positive results. Additionally, we were repeatedly reminded that the kids at the center wanted and desired to do well. I found that maybe I had lost this idea when looking at them. It was very helpful and I'm looking forward to working with a student regularly.
Looking back, my wish after that March 3 entry was almost granted. After these dates, I began regularly serving as a tutor/mentor. Each experience brought about something new, but they went similar to my time with Daniel. I worked with three more different students and each displayed something different. Abdirahim was a very energetic young boy who seemed to like to do almost anything besides his homework. However, once we became focused, we worked quickly and fairly efficiently. Over time, he even began filling out his own “what’s happening? sheet. Though it may seem small, it was a big step for Abdirahim and I at homework and hoops.
Another student I had the pleasure of working with was Abdilahih (sp?). His calm demeanor struck me immediately and his polite speech could not be ignored. However, our time together working on homework or playing in the gym is not what will ultimately stick with me regarding my time with Abdillahih. When visiting the Homework ‘n’ Hoops points’ store, his first purchase was a stuffed animal. He was excited to tell me that it was a character from his little brother’s favorite television show and that he was going to give it to him as soon as he got home. All of the kids were excited to show each other what they purchased. Phrases like “What’d you get? How many points do you have left?? were thrown across the room. It amazed me that Abdilahih always pulled out the present for his brother before he showed any of the items he bought for himself. It was a nice reminder of not only how happy the recipient of a gift can be, but of how exciting giving can be. This is how I have viewed my time at homework and hoops.
Though the semester is winding down and, subsequently, my time at Homework ‘n’ Hoops, I am looking into the possibility of continuing my volunteer experience in their summer program or restarting as a mentor/tutor next year.