Rose Adams’ Summer of Service Reflection

This summer, I worked at a program called Horizons at Brooklyn Friends School. Horizons is a summer enrichment program that helps kids from low-income families get an education over the summer, thus preventing the “summer slide.” Over the summer, children from lower income families, who don’t have as great an access to books or supplementary education, regress a few months in learning while children from middle income families only regress slightly. This disparity between the two, also known as the “achievement gap” widens over time, and by the fifth grade, a child from a low-income family can be up to three years behind a
middle-income child. Horizons offers art, music, and swimming classes as well as the
academics, so each child can have a well-rounded summer.
I worked at Horizons for a month, spending most of my time with third graders, although I worked with the first grade and kindergarteners as well. I was a counselor, which they called “volunteer” and I supervised and played with the kids during their free time and their non-academic classes, though each grade varied in terms of how much I helped them. The third graders did not usually require any help from me or the other volunteers during their academic classes (there were two a day) but the first graders and kindergarteners needed constant attention no matter what they were doing. When we went swimming, every Monday, Tuesday, and
Thursday, the volunteers and teachers would get in the water and help the kids swim. This was a lot of fun for the teachers and the kids; some kids would never want to get out while others made you swear you wouldn’t let go of them before jumping off the platform. I became very close with the kids, despite our many differences. One student in my third grade class had never known anyone who was Jewish, and was astonished that I wasn’t dressed in a long skirt and tights like an orthodox woman. He was also surprised by how similar we were, even though we were different religions. Another student was from Gambia in Africa and was still adjusting to life in New York City.
Horizons taught me how much I love working with children and how to deal with them. While I taught them games (such as Bananagrams and volleyball which they grew to love) and about Judaism, they taught me so much as well. They taught me how to talk to children, how different a kindergartener is from a first grader, how to be nice but not a pushover, how to maintain order, and so much more. I heard about their families and some of their struggles. I learned about how many of them owned large flat-screen TVs or cool gadgets but lived in public housing. Shianne, a third grader, told me about her father’s trouble in finding work and how she loved it when he was a construction worker for the MTA and she wanted him to do that again. Kaddyjah, another third grader, told me about how she used to live in Gambia, Africa and how she wants to go back. I think it is so important to give back because of how much you, and whoever you help, learn. Before Horizons, I didn’t know any low-income children and now that I do, I can say that they are more like me than I would have ever guessed.

4 thoughts on “Rose Adams’ Summer of Service Reflection

  1. It is amazing how a gap in learning in those early years can wreak such havoc. Programs like Horizon or The GO Project, that provide summer enrichment for these low income children are so important. It’s also wonderful that schools like Brooklyn Friends (Horizon) and Friends Seminary (GO Project) support these organizations by providing facilities and other resources. Of course, these programs also rely heavily on volunteers such as you. Thank you for giving so much of your time this summer as a volunteer. It’s obvious from your how you write about the children you worked with how much you got from this experience. That’s the wonderful thing about giving…you end up receiving so much back in return.
    Leitzel

  2. Hi Rose –

    I’m a new teacher at Friends Seminary (5th/6th grade) and I’m part of the Service Committee. Leitzel has been showing us the blog and telling us about the service component of high school.

    I really enjoyed reading your entry about Horizons and how you connected with the kids. It sounds like you and the students each found ways to overcome your preconceived conceptions of each other, always a meaningful thing. And I certainly agree that we’re all more alike than different … I taught in low-income communities for a few years before coming to Friends. I remember, initially, being discouraged when I first learned about the Achievement Gap, though it’s only through actions like yours and programs like Horizon that we can solve such a pressing problem.

    Nice to read your writing and I’m glad you took the time to really think through your experience at Horizons. Would you want to go back in a few years and teach in the program?

    Craig

  3. Hi Craig,
    I’m glad you enjoyed my reflection! Working at Horizons gave me a sense of hope that through the organization’s positive influence, we could motivate the children and make them see their education as an asset. I think organizations like Horizons, the GO Project, and even the great teachers at low-income schools help gradually shrink the Achievement Gap. Also, knowing that many parents take their child’s education seriously enough to send their child to Horizons gives me hope. I definitely want to work with low-income kids in the future, and volunteering at programs or teaching in low-income community like you did are great ways of helping out.

  4. Rose:

    Your reflections about your work at Horizon’s is a wonderful piece of writing. Thank you so much for your work and for sharing your moving insights and thoughts.

    Cynthia

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