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Student Success Story as told by an Americorps member
Last year, I worked with a sixth grade girl who did not want to attend my service-learning group. She had no problem expressing her feelings of displeasure towards the group or me. Her outbursts were a constant distraction to the group and on a couple of occasions I had to send her back to class in order to make progress with the rest of the group. This student also struggled getting to class on time and was constantly caught wandering the hallways during class. When I would encourage her to get to class I was always met with hostility. Due to tardiness and class absences her grades started to drop, so I warned her that if things did not change I would devote an entire day to following her to each of her classes. She must have not believed me because she continued to wander the halls during class. Therefore, one day after our service-learning group I followed her to first period, then, I showed up right before the end of first period and walked her to her second period. I continued doing this the whole day and with every passing period she seemed to become more annoyed by my presence, yet she was not late to a single class. She had enough of me by seventh period and told another student that I was stalking her. I alerted my boss and her assistant principal of the incident so that there was no confusion as to what actually happened.
From there, her behavior only got worse, and a week later she got into a fight that ultimately sent her to alternative school. Unfortunately, she had to spend her birthday in alternative school away from all of her friends; so my coworker and I decided to visit her and bring her candy. When she first saw me she was a little shocked and hostile like the last time we had talked; however when she noticed that Nita and I had brought her candy and a card she began to come around. This was a big turning point in our mentor - mentee relationship. While I was there we sat for about 30 minutes and she told me all about her time in alternative school and how she had become friends with the student whom she had previously fought with.
Two weeks later she returned to Indian Spring Middle School a totally different student. Instead of avoiding me she purposefully stopped by the CIS office to tell me about her day and to ask if our service-learning group was meeting that week. She was rarely late to class and her grades shot up. In our service-learning group she was constantly engaged in discussions and seemed happy to be there. She is one of the reasons I decided to do a second AmeriCorps term with CIS at Indian Spring Middle School. On the first day back at school this year she was just as excited to see me as I was to see her. She even asked me if I would be working with her again this year, and if she could be in my service-learning group.
While working for a non-profit does bring its obstacles, and adding middle school students to the mix does not make it any easier, it is moments like this that make me want to show up for work each morning. Middle school students are going through a lot of life changes that can make them angry, and sometimes cause that anger to be misdirected. In order to work with them, one has to have thick skin and cannot be afraid to look like a fool. They are going to insult you and make you want to pull your hair out at times, but being able to go home knowing you have made a difference in child’s life makes it all worthwhile. I love what I do and I am excited to spend the rest of the year serving these students.