Starting in January of 2015, I began volunteering at The Dowd Education Center. I decided to get involved with The Semester of Service Project through the Scholars Program and The Dowd Education Center was where I got placed. Last spring, I was in the third grade classroom helping the students with their homework. I enjoyed my time at The Dowd and the kids so much that I decided to spend some time there over the summer and this entire school year as a reading mentor for two girls. Each week, I go and read with the girls to work on their fluency and comprehension skills. I have built friendships with these girls as well as some of the other students at The Dowd. I enjoy having conversations with them about what is going on in their lives’ and I enjoy answering their questions about my life and college.
From my time at The Dowd so far, I have definitely learned skills and tips that are important to keep in the front of my mind both for both now and in the future. The most valuable piece of advice I have received is that consistency in these kids lives’ is the most important thing because it is not always in their lives’ as much as it should be. Whether it is in the discipline, the daily routines, or the volunteers showing up, consistency is very valued at The Dowd. By showing up weekly, I have been able to build relationships with the kids and earn their trust. This is beneficial because the conversations become more authentic and my time there is more purposeful. Something else I learned from this experience is patience. The kids at The Dowd have a lot going on in their life outside of their school work, more so than other children their age. Sometimes, getting them to focus on the task at hand is challenging but I’ve learned that the best way to deal with this is through a softer tone and a request for them to respect you. The agenda doesn’t always go as planned and learning to role with how the student is feeling that day as long as it is not at the expense of respect (which The Dowd works very hard to instill in the children), is an important skill I have learned.
One of my favorite quotes is from Mother Teresa in which she states, “In this life we can not do great things. We can only do small things with great love”. I haven’t changed the world with my service project but I have been a mentor for two little girls who are advancing in their literacy skills through our weekly time together and who have someone to talk with about life. Hopefully, I have also been a positive light for other students at The Dowd by being someone who cares about them as a person and by telling them that they can all go to college. I have met some incredible staff members who have demonstrated what sacrifice looks like in a number of different ways, especially with their personal time. Due to this service learning project, I have gained insight into what working in a non-profit organization looks like and how to relate to children from a different upbringing than what I had. The kids at The Dowd have inspired me because despite great adversity in their life, they are happy, well-behaved, thankful, and hard-working.