Experience Corps is an award-winning program that started in 1995 with a mission to create powerful opportunities for older adults to meet society’s greatest challenges. 2,000 Experience Corps members are spread throughout 20 National cities to mentor, tutor, and be committed role models for students and youth serving organizations. Below are four stories from local AmeriCorps members serving in Minneapolis/ St.Paul Experience Corps programs.
By: Carol K, 2nd year AmeriCorps member, Experience Corps program
I have one student who resisted reading with me. I knew I had to find some way to relate to her and make it fun. I asked her if she speaks Spanish. She said yes and asked me if I speak Spanish. I said no, but I would like to learn. So, I suggested that she teach me a new word each day and I would teach her how to read. At first she said no, but a couple of weeks later she said she had news for me. When I asked what the news was she said she didn’t hate reading anymore because I was fun to work with. I could have done cartwheels I was so happy! This is why I tutor.
By: Earline, AmeriCorps Member, Experience Corps program
This story is not your typical reading story. I was working with a third grade girl who would not talk but went through the motions of reading. Her lips would move as would her fingers along each line. I tried many times to encourage her to speak up but she would just look at me with her beautiful eyes and not respond. Finally I came up with the idea to write notes to her. I wasn’t sure if she would respond but that this might help me to confirm that she could read. Well, after the first short note, she looked up and nodded her head “yes” – the note read, Can you talk? Do you have a voice? I wrote another note saying It is OK to speak. She started speaking and reading out loud in a soft whisper. As time went on her voice became louder as I complimented her on her reading ability. By the end of the year she was talking and reading so loudly that we had to calm her down!
By: Bill, 2nd year AmeriCorps member, Experience Corps program
Michael was a second grader who was very bright but had significant emotional problems. He was a loner who frequently curled up on the floor in the corner of the room. I accompanied the class to the Museum of Art and Michael was in the group of students I was helping supervise. I knew it would be difficult, but I sat next to him on the bus and played games with him. I awarded him points if he could answer my questions. We continued the process when we arrived at the museum. He responded very positively and wanted to earn 20 points to get a pretend gold medal. While walking between exhibits, I told him that he would get a point every time he asked our guide a good question or answered one of the guide’s questions. He was very cooperative during the visit and it carried over on the bus trip back to school. He constantly wanted more points and more medals so while in class, as long as he sat in the circle and answered questions, he would look over at me and I would acknowledge his response. He earned points whenever he worked with me one on one. He earned points for completing his homework assignments. After about 4 days, he always participated in class and earned a lot of gold medals throughout the remainder of the school year.
By Jane, 2nd year AmeriCorps member, Experience Corps program
I know that Experience Corps tutors make a difference. When I first started helping Zareka, a first grader, last year, she had barely learned the alphabet and didn’t know the sounds of letters even though she had gone to kindergarten. Her teacher said she made everyone in the class cry at least once and disrupted the room regularly. Zareka and I began to spend an hour together twice every week. At first she tried to do everything but read, but as the year wore on and we got to know and like each other, she began to grasp phonics and simple words. At the same time, her mother was working with her every night at home. As the months moved along, she read words, then sentences, and by June, she was reading at a first grade level. Even though I’ve been asked why I have creases in my face and brown teeth, I wouldn’t trade what I’m doing for anything. Helping first graders is a wonderful life!