When I first started tutoring a third-grader named Nasir*, it was a challenge. We first met because he was struggling in math class. After spending some time with him, I learned he actually had a natural ability when it came to math, however he couldn’t complete worksheets and tests because he wasn’t able to understand the instructions and the problems. He was struggling to read. He couldn’t keep up with the rest of the class because his reading was more than three grade levels behind.
As AmeriCorps members, we focus on the early warning indicators that show if a student is likely to make it graduation on time. If a student is behind in math, literacy or has poor attendance, they only have 25% chance to graduate high school. When we know a student is struggling in one of these areas, we are able to tailor learning to get them back on track using the tools that City Year teaches. I provide students with extra resources to help them succeed academically. I make sure that they are able to understand and follow the lesson being taught, filling in any foundational information that may be missing.
"I provide students with extra resources to help them succeed academically."
For Nasir, we started working one-on-one to make sure he was making up for missed literacy knowledge, while not falling further behind. A true challenge if you think about it. He has to learn more and more quickly than his classroom peers. We did a lot of practice together. I created a packet of reading worksheets that focused on reading site words to help improve his fluency. Recently, he just made it through that packet and I could not have been prouder. When we got to the end he was both confused because he never expected to finish a reading assignment and happy because he did something he had never done before. He asked me, “Are we going to do another one?” Now we are working on phonics.
"He was both confused because he never expected to finish a reading assignment and happy because he did something he had never done before."
Nasir was recently named “Most Improved” at his school's All-Star Awards. When we met in September, he was reading at a pre-kindergarten level, now he is at a 2nd grade level, which is a huge jump in six months!
Before I started as an AmeriCorps member, I only imagined myself as a tutor for the students, but the student-corps relationship is so much more. I really am their mentor and even their confidant. I love my job. The work I do with my students helps them grow academically, socially and emotionally which will impact the adults they will become.
"The work I do is vital in keeping them involved and engaged."
I am just one of over 200 City Year AmeriCorps members in Philadelphia and Nasir is only one out of the 8,000 local students we support. City Year really gives students opportunities to overcome challenges and succeed through education and the work I do is vital in keeping them involved and engaged in that education.
Written by Maham Quraishi, City Year Philadelphia AmeriCorps Member
*Names have been changed