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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    OPINION: Volunteering in schools empowers everyone involved


    Working with children has always been something I’ve enjoyed. In high school, I tutored younger kids in English and math. I also coached a recreational dive team and taught swim lessons. All of the kids I worked with were from a wealthy Phoenix suburb, and I taught them at their expensive houses.

    Now, I volunteer an hour each week to the children of Robison Elementary School.

    My first experience at Robison was at its annual Halloween carnival. It reminded me a lot of my elementary school experience: cake walks, games where everyone wins a prize and lots of kids running around.

    However, there were some differences. At my elementary school carnivals, we had a miniature Ferris wheel, blow-up slides, a bungee trampoline and much more.

    Robison’s carnival was set up in the small grassy area in the middle of the classrooms. I worked at a booth where kids “fished” for candy. The kids were dressed in costumes and loved throwing the fishing pole into the box to see what kind of candy they got.

    Some of the kids asked if they could switch out their candy for a different one, but most were excited about whatever they got.

    Now, I go on Friday afternoons and spend an hour doing activities with kindergarten through third-grade students. They are so excited when we arrive. We bring them to a classroom and give their teachers a break from after-school care.

    Last week, I was with the kindergartners and first-graders. The kids were doing an activity where they chose their favorite food, wrote the recipe and drew a picture to go along with it. They needed help spelling food like “pizza,” “spaghetti and meatballs,” “macaroni and cheese” and “sandwich.”

    The kids were respectful and listened to instructions very well, but a lot of them had more trouble with writing than I expected. One child didn’t know how to write the letter H. I’m used to working with young kids, and I’ve mostly tutored for reading, but this was not something I was used to.

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    One child didn’t even have a backpack to put her activity paper in. This is the norm at schools in Tucson, but not where I’m from.

    Working with these students is really empowering. They were genuinely so excited to write down the recipes of their favorite food and color in the pictures they drew. It’s really rewarding to be able to help these kids learn how to write and spell. They’re so grateful for the chance to see college students and work with them.

    I can really tell how much the kids look up to me and the rest of the young women I volunteer with, which is a great reminder of how lucky I am.

    Volunteering with kids is incredibly eye-opening, and I encourage everyone to do it at least once. They tell you exactly what they think, and they are so eager to learn from you.

    The kids I helped to spell and write were so appreciative and really trying to do well. They asked me if they had nice handwriting, asked how to spell every single word they didn’t know and were completely engaged in the activity.

    This was so inspiring to see because it was after school hours and the other children who were at school were playing tag on the recess grass. Instead of being upset that their parents work later than other kids’ or that they have to spend time learning how to write better, they were trying their hardest and really enjoying their time with me and the other volunteers.

    The teachers at the school are also incredibly patient. They deal with young kids and their parents for about eight hours a day, which is no easy task. When I coached, I only did so for about four hours a day at most, and even then, I was worn out at the end.

    Parents can also be a nightmare, which is just another stress for teachers, in addition to an entire class of children.

    The teachers are also appreciative for the work the volunteers do. For an hour, they get to take a short break and let someone else take over the chaos that is a kindergarten classroom.

    Sami Marks is a sophomore studying English and creative writing. Follow her on Twitter.

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