By: Christina Huber, AmeriCorps VISTA, Tutoring Coordinator for St. Paul Public Schools Foundation
After four years of studying English Literature and History, I was ready for a break from the hallowed halls of academia. I wanted to get my nose out of textbooks and away from centuries-old volumes of poetry. I wanted to get my hands dirty; to make an impact on the world. I also wanted to come home to Minnesota.
After a lot of research (I was an English major after all), I decided to apply for AmeriCorps VISTA positions in St. Paul. After several interviews and a bit of nail-biting I was offered the role of Tutoring Coordinator with the Saint Paul Public Schools Foundation. I couldn’t have been more thrilled.
Now, nearly eleven months into my term of service, I am still just as excited to go to work each morning as I was on that first day after PSO (Pre-Service Orientation). Though I serve with a cohort of VISTAs who are all sponsored by the Saint Paul Public Schools Foundation, I spend most of my time at Crossroads Elementary School in St. Paul’s North End neighborhood. At Crossroads I coordinate a tutoring program that helps students in kindergarten through sixth grade improve their reading and math skills. It is my job to recruit, train and coordinate a team of fabulous volunteer tutors who give their best to Crossroads students each and every week. Of course, I’ve also had many opportunities to connect with students and staff throughout the year—who knew the best part of my day would be supervising 5th grade crossing guards?
My term of service has, at times, been difficult, challenging and even a bit overwhelming, but it has never been dull. I have seen students who were struggling to understand basic phonics begin to read fluently. I have had the privilege of coordinating an amazing group of volunteers and meeting some incredibly talented VISTAs. I also began to understand what it feels like to step outside of my comfort zone to participate in something larger than myself. I am unspeakably grateful for these life lessons and, as I begin to wrap up my term of service, I can’t help but wonder who has learned more during this year of tutoring—the students, or me?