Post-college I served three terms or years (Aug 2013-June 2016) of service in the federal community volunteering initiative AmeriCorps. Similar to the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps provides specialized training in areas that are non-profit related. Their services range from literacy, food scarcity initiatives, after school wellness programs, and high school college partnerships. All of these programs flourish because of the millions of volunteers that dedicate years, or terms, of service to assist their local community or nation grapple with pressing needs.
Initially after college in May 2013, as a result of an employment prospect gone wrong, I was unemployed. For nearly two months, I applied and found no success. However, in June of 2013, I saw a position at a local Houston literacy non-profit teaching adult basic education (ABE), ESL, and GED. With my degree in social work, I assumed I was a good fit.
Little did I know what the road had in store for me.
My first year as an instructor had many highs and lows.
For starters, the pay was low which totaled to about $415 bi-weekly plus food assistance through food stamps.
Working with adults, immigrants, and refugees was a beautiful catastrophe. Primarily, I learned that students, regardless of age, come to the classroom with their own unique experiences and personalities. This was great because I’m a people person and I love to interact and learn from others. I establish some really great relationships with my students that transcended the normal teacher-student relationship.
In particular, I taught a South America Afro-Latina with a paralysis that glorified God through her disability. Instead of seeing her wheelchair as a hindrance, she saw it as a way to unleash her vibrant personality and encourage others who share similar handicaps at her daily physical therapy sessions. She had hopes of being in media broadcasting/ commercials, so I hope to see her wide smile bringing us all joy!
However, taking time to adjust to my new job took a lot of patience, effort, and practice. Especially, when the ESL students tried to stage a coup against me all because I was a fresh new teacher and they felt their progress was threatened. In time, this chasm of trust was bridged and I ended up building transformative relationships with my class.
In addition, getting comfortable in my content was a challenge. Teaching six different subjects morning and night to nearly 50 adults was difficult. Thankfully, with time, I became more adjusted to balancing and planning. My tenure there helped push more than 100 students towards closing the extensive adult literacy gap in Harris County. This was more than my goal set by my supervisor.
My second year in AmeriCorps, I was a teaching fellow at a national education non-profit located in Boston, MA that branched to Houston. Overall, the mission statement of the agency was to provide 21-st century skills (collaboration, problem-solving, speaking) in an afterschool club environment.
The pay increase was definitely worthwhile! I started making about $670 bi-weekly plus a $500 per semester living allowance and food assistance, with a slight reduction in benefits.
While there, I taught an after school program called, Rock the Mock Election, which basically gave students exposure to the three forms of government and eventually lead to a student body election. In addition, I co-taught Lego Robotics and Boy Scouts with actual Boy Scouts of America (BSA) instructors. On the education side, I pushed into reading teachers’ classes during the school day to assist with their lessons.
The school leadership decided that my organization would be better at having mini-book clubs based on reading levels to focus on growth for state standardized tests. As a result, I had a 3 student book club that eventually helped 2 out of 3 “students of concern” pass their state exam.
Based on my new experience as an educator, this helped me land a better job with an even higher pay increase. Now, I made about $800 bi-weekly plus gas stipend which easily was $200-$300 a month.
During my last year in AmeriCorps, I served as a school liaison with reading initiatives such as peer-tutoring in schools and facilitated peer-reading programs with professionals from the community. The peer-reding program was a fun way to network and promote myself to potential employers that had really well-paying jobs such as working for the Houston Rockets, oil and gas sector, and various non-profits. In addition, whichever school we hosted the program at had administrators recognize my daily work, so I was bound to land a job either teaching or white-collar affiliated after my year.
Ultimately, one of the site supervisors was a teacher and recommended I apply to her former district.
I applied. Taught a practice lesson. And the rest is history. That was about four years ago. Now I’m in my fourth year as an educator and it’s been challenging but I’m committed to increasing the number of college-ready leaders in my community.
In summary, I had a great tenure while serving my community. I learned immeasurable skills, gained cultural competencies that I never would’ve have earned elsewhere, and experiences that will stick with me wherever I go.