Adam Emmart, Schools of Hope AmeriCorps Member
I arrived on the AmeriCorps scene almost by accident. During my last year of undergraduate studies, I like many of my peers had absolutely no idea where I would be or what I would be doing after graduation. A professor had convinced me to apply for law school, but not being the type of person to bet all my chips on a single number, I was compelled to find other opportunities. When my acceptance letters for law school began arriving in my mailbox, I was thrilled that I would be continuing with my education, but something else caught my attention.
Around the same time, I received a phone call to set up an interview for a position with an AmeriCorps project in Madison, Wisconsin. I nearly forgot that I had applied for the position, but the commute from Milwaukee to Madison certainly wasn’t far, so I scheduled a date and time. What followed was the best interview that I have ever had. The project coordinators who interviewed me were wonderful, and I was really intrigued about the nature of the project and the work to which it was dedicated. Although I was really excited as I left the office, law school was definitely on my mind. I had invested too much into applying, and I knew I could not deny myself more education. But I really did not want to give up on this new opportunity if the coordinators offered me a position with the Project. Fortunately there was a way that I could have it all. My university was willing to grant me a deferment if I wished to serve with AmeriCorps.
I have never regretted my decision to defer law school and take a year to serve on the Schools of Hope Project. I have learned a tremendous amount and developed many skills that will undoubtedly benefit me as a future attorney. Serving with a team of other AmeriCorps members has taught me how to work effectively as a group to accomplish similar goals (it definitely helps that they are all truly wonderful people). I have learned to be more patient, better organized, and attentive to detail; I have learned how to mediate and resolve conflicts, hold myself and others accountable, and admit mistakes and shortcomings; I have learned to be a better leader.
In a lot of ways, the time that I have spent with the Schools of Hope Project has seemed like such a small blip on the radar, a fleeting moment somewhere between my undergraduate career and law school. But in many other ways, it has been and continues to be so much more.
Toni Bartolutti, Schools of Hope AmeriCorps Member
I am currently in my first year of service with the Schools of Hope AmeriCorps Project. I work as a tutor coordinator at two elementary schools in Sun Prairie and my role includes recruiting, screening, interviewing, placing and supervising dozens of volunteer tutors. I am responsible for interacting with the school secretaries, principals, teachers, support staff, school social workers, counselors, school nurses, the district superintendent, 19 other Schools of Hope AmeriCorps members, volunteers of all ages, and students from every grade. My day can include reporting, tracking tutoring sessions, tutoring, interviewing a prospective volunteer, planning a volunteer appreciation event, decorating a bulletin board, creating literacy resources, and visiting a classroom.
It sounds pretty technical, and busy, but what has made my year so memorable, is seeing the significant impact my work has on the students, the staff, and the volunteers. I never considered how satisfying the work would be. Nothing makes me happier than hearing that a kindergartner who I’ve been tutoring for months got a 100% on her spelling test, something that has never happened for her before. Or having a fifth grader prefer to be at his tutoring session with me rather than attend the fun all school assembly. I get to see kid’s lives changed by having stable adult role models. Students open up to their tutors and confide the most personal things to them including worries, fears, things they are proud of, and family traditions.
I get to see the schools from both an outside volunteer perspective and from the inside as a staff member. I get to witness the dedication of school staff, and see them work their hardest to make their students successful. My experience with Schools of Hope has been so much better than anything else I could be doing right now. I have learned about problems facing my community and the ways people are working to alleviate them. I’ve been a part of a fun, intelligent, passionate team. I’ve practiced my professional correspondence, communication and organizational skills, which will be helpful in my future occupations. But apart from all of that, personally the students and staff at my school have made lasting impressions on me. I’ve been supported, motivated, and inspired by their stories, and work my hardest to give them the best opportunities.
Jessie Kember, Schools of Hope AmeriCorps Member
When I think about what I will take away from my AmeriCorps service, I get overwhelmed with memories, experiences, and lessons that I have learned. I realize that what will be most memorable for me are the people I have been fortunate enough to meet.
The Team. I will never forget my AmeriCorps team members; our similarities, our differences, our strengths, and weaknesses. I will never forget my team members’ passions and frustrations. I will never forget the life-long friends I have made, and the positive influences they have had on my life.
The Project Coordinators. I will never forget the infinite amount of support that the project “Coords” have provided for me. I will never forget those four individuals I most looked up to for help and advice during my two years of service. I will never forget their understanding and compassion.
The Teachers. I will never forget the teacher who has become an invaluable friend and coworker, and who has taught me the potential that the classroom can hold for its students. I will never forget the teachers who were always the first to arrive at school, and the last to pack up to go home.
The Students. I will never forget the students that I spent countless hours tutoring in a small group, practicing the slight differences between Spanish and English vowel sounds. I will never forget the students who shouted my name the instant I walked into a classroom. I will never forget being tackled with hugs on a daily basis.
I think about all of the individuals that I am thankful to have met. I think about all of those who I have built a relationship with as a part of Schools of Hope, and I consider myself incredibly lucky to have worked with all of these individuals. Simply having the opportunity to work with these individuals has been the most valuable learning experience I could possibly ask for.
Andrea Frederick, Schools of Hope AmeriCorps Member
My time with Schools of Hope has been an extremely rewarding experience and it has allowed me to push myself past my comfort zone and to grow more as an individual. I have gotten the opportunity to meet amazing volunteers who dedicate their time to help children in need. I have the honor of working with extraordinary individuals who put others’ needs before their own and put forth their best efforts to help close the achievement gap. I also have had the opportunity to tutor a number of sensational individuals. These individuals touch my heart on a daily basis. They continuously make me a better person. And knowing that I am making a difference – even the smallest one – in their lives is immensely gratifying.
Hannah Klusendorf, Schools of Hope AmeriCorps Member
Schools of Hope is providing the opportunity for me to follow a dream. This dream is that every student who enters Kindergarten will not leave school until they have received their high school diploma. Education provides the foundation for children to pursue their own dreams. Children are the future; they require and deserve respect and encouragement. Each individual has the potential to be amazing and contribute something unique to our society.
By providing a chance, the proper tools, and encouragement from positive role models the Schools of Hope Project is helping each child to develop into a confident and dynamic person. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to work closely with so many others who share my dream. Teachers, other staff, tutors, and I work together every day to help the students develop not only their academic skills but their self-confidence as well. I feel truly blessed to serve with a project that has the potential to positively impact the rest of a child’s life. The success of this program is evident in the smiles of students, teachers, and tutors.