Looking Back

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It has now been exactly two weeks since my last time volunteering at the after-school program. Before writing this post, I looked over my first few posts on this blog and realized how far I’ve come in my volunteering experiences. When I began my project, I went into it hoping to make a difference, but assuming the nagging little voice in my head telling me my project would fail was right. Fortunately, that little voice could not have been more wrong.

I’ve already spent a lot of time discussing the impact my  service has had on the students, but now I would like to take a moment to share the influence I’ve had on people who have kept up with my story and even learned something from it.

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A Final Farewell

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My final day of volunteering at the after-school program was fairly relaxed; the students were taking standardized tests so they did not have homework and we were instructed to cut back on the STEM activities and reading quizzes. We allowed the students to chose the days they did one reading quiz for the week and the STEM project was scheduled for Thursday which was the last day of testing.

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How to Take a Test

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As I’ve mentioned before, one of the most eye opening aspects of my volunteer work has been how much personal attention many students need in order to complete their work. From a very young age I was known to handle things for myself (my mom always tells me how I taught myself to write by looking at a poster of the alphabet and asking her what letters I needed for a word) so it was very shocking for me to be around students who had trouble reading short news articles, taking little quizzes, or writing basic sentences.

Along with the required STEM projects for the after school program, students are also required to take two online reading quizzes a week. While most of the kids fly through the assignments without a hitch, some can barely make it through the first paragraph without asking for help.

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Math…The Struggle is Real

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While I haven’t posted every single day right after I volunteer, I still like to share my favorite stories when I get a chance and this post is no exception. I recently learned that I have the ability to teach math–even geometry.

Geometry is my absolute least favorite mathematical concept (I could never understand the way my teachers taught it in middle/high school). And, of course, many of the students in the after-school program were beginning basic geometry and needed help on homework. Considering the other volunteers at the program are civics and life skills teachers and I am a chemistry major, I handle a lot of the scientific and mathematical questions the students have.

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Real Talk: Breaking Down Bullying

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Rather than another story about my experiences volunteering with the after school program, I have decided to take this post as an opportunity to make others more aware about bullying and its effects– especially at the middle school age. My earlier post about Opal and her playground bullies sparked interest regarding bullying at this age group, as well as about bullying in general.

Children across the country, across the world, face the ridicule of their peers every single day. While many are working to prevent this, bullying never seems to go away despite the efforts. Most people tend to associate bullies as people compensating for having low self esteems. However, recent studies beg to differ.

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The Playground, The Bullies, The Lonely One

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My second day of volunteering at the after school program was one that hit home for me in some ways. In elementary/middle school, I was bullied and shunned by my peers for reasons I never fully understood, and I finally observed this heart breaking situation from an adult supervisor’s perspective.

When we took the students out to play on the playground for their free time, they all immediately broke off into their cliques and ran around having a blast. However, there was one young girl, Opal, who was wandering around the play area alone, nervously moving from group to group hoping to be included somewhere. Each group quickly turned their backs and told Opal to go find someone else to talk to. Finally, Opal meandered her way over to myself and one other volunteer worker and asked us to play catch with her.

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