Major Service Project~Reading Mentor at The Dowd Education Center

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     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.

Informational Interview with Erin Priest

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For my Informational Interview, I chose to ask insight from the Curriculum Coordinator from The Homeless Families Foundation.  Her name is Erin Priest and she is a wonderful, talented, and hard-working woman.  I chose to interview Erin Priest because of the relationship I have built with her over the past year of volunteering at The Dowd Education Center and because she is someone I look up to.  Erin works extremely hard to make sure that the children at The Dowd Education Center, part of the Homeless Families Foundation, receive the assistance they need with reading and school work so that they do not fall behind.  Erin also has taught in the Columbus City School District and as a place I might hope to teach someday, I wanted her to share her wisdom with me from the real life experience of teaching.

As I mentioned above, Erin is the Curriculum Coordinator at The Dowd Education Center.  However, Erin states, “…as is the reality of any nonprofit job position, that doesn’t even begin to cover what I’m responsible for. The main roles I fill are: helping Beth to navigate and understand the education requirements of our grants, helping staff (both on the Dowd side of things as well as the housing portion of HFF) to serve our families and students when there is a question about any aspect of education (IEPs, grades, summer school requirements, testing, etc.), aiding teachers in understanding the Columbus City Schools curriculum requirements and state standards so that they are able to teach lessons and provide support for what their Dowd students are learning in school and expected to know for testing, assessing all students enrolled at The Dowd in reading achievement 3-4 times a year and providing intervention for the lowest performing students, and maintaining and growing the main and classroom libraries. I also am a member of our leadership team (one of three full-time employees for The Dowd) and am responsible for any duties that may involve”.  Needless to say, Erin has truly dedicated not only her time but her complete heart to her position.  Even when the kids who attend The Dowd Education Center have days off, Erin is always there trying to prepare materials or organize the books in the library for the children.

I asked Erin how she got to be where she is today, and she said it was a very difficult but necessary path.  She started out in psychology as an undergrad at The Ohio State University and eventually switched to education.  She fell in love with her classes and she was intrigued with the modern education world and its problems.  Erin then went back home to grad school to receive her teaching license and then became a substitute teacher in Columbus City Schools.  Next, she had her own classroom in Columbus City Schools for three years.  She said that these were the toughest years of her life.  She was constantly in an uphill battle.  A lot of the challenges came from her not being able to have the flexibility to teach the students what she thought they really needed.  Erin stated that “I was driven by a passion for my kids and the desire to help and elevate the ones that no one else thought could learn”.  With her deep passion and with no room to deviate from the structured lesson plans, Erin decided she wanted to leave and go somewhere where she felt like she could work to her full potential.  The Dowd Education Center was looking for a part time Reading Intervention Specialist at the time and Erin was fortunate enough to get the position.  Two years ago, a new director of The Dowd Education Center came on board and asked Erin to take on the position she has now.  Without the eventful road to her current position, Erin says, “I wouldn’t have the knowledge I use every day to help our kids and parents navigate such a ridiculous education system, I wouldn’t have the background I needed to understand the kids and parents I work with at The Dowd, and I wouldn’t have the relationships I have to stay connected to what’s happening in education”.

Lastly, Erin was very kind to provide me with some advice.  She told me to not limit what I think about when it comes to the careers in education.  She mentioned that becoming a teacher is not the only option.  Erin said, “…you can work in the private sector and help write text books or curriculum, you can work for the state and do something with ODE, you can teach, you can see what local nonprofits are doing with education and take that route, you can teach at the college level, there are million different things. I would say find a few that intrigue you and go visit people who do that. Talk to someone who does that job or even shadow them for a day. Also, don’t be afraid to be open to possibilities you can’t even imagine right now”.

The final words Erin said were these.  They are truly inspiring and I can only hope to be as passionate about my job in the future as she is about hers.

My Question: Why do you do what you do?

Her Answer: “Because I can’t imagine living a life where I’m living for me. Don’t get me wrong, I do a lot of things because I enjoy them or because they’re what’s right for my family, but I can’t imagine my life not serving a purpose greater than myself. Society as a whole likes to pretend an entire population doesn’t exist because it’s hard to see and deal with human suffering. The issues of homelessness, poverty, racism, human trafficking, etc. are tough things for people to imagine, so they choose to ignore them. I believe everyone deserves to be seen. I believe every child deserves to know they are important and capable. I don’t want to be a voice for those without one, because then I’m assuming I’m more capable then they are. I want to teach those whose voices have been hidden that their voices are important, valid, and important. I want to teach our kids they have every right anyone else does, they just may have to fight a little harder for them”.

In conclusion, this informational interview was very helpful and I definitely want to continue to pick people’s brains who have more knowledge and experience than I currently do.

Year In Review

As I reflect on my past two years at The Ohio State University, I can confidently say that I have grown a lot both as a student and a person.  Coming into college, I had the idea that I would have an easy transition from high school.  I was very good with managing my time, I knew how to be organized, I was ready to work hard, I was outgoing, and I had a general idea of what I wanted to get involved in.  Fast forward four semesters, and I am finally starting to feel as though I have found my place at Ohio State.  I know over the next two years, I will grow even more and I am looking forward to that.  I would love to share the details of what I have learned so far.

Freshman year, was definitely one of the hardest years of my life.  Nothing dramatic occurred other than I was surrounded by 60,000 students, a choice of 1,000 clubs to join, as well as decide which major would fit best with my passions.  I felt very overwhelmed.  Within the first semester, I discovered that I was meant to be a teacher for the early grades.  I love kids, building relationships, and being there for people at pivotal moments in their life.  I have a desire to teach young children more than just what is in the curriculum.  My volunteer experience and my field experience with children so far in college, has only solidified this decision to study early childhood education.

The second important thing that I learned about myself freshman year is that staying true to who you are is very important.  I had certain values coming into college and I am glad that I didn’t give those up for the expense of “fitting into” the so called college lifestyle.  By remaining true to my values, it took a little extra time, but I found friends and developed relationships with people who have the same values as me.  I found friends who I could be my complete self around and who I know will be lifelong friends.

Sophomore year has treated me very well.  Something I have learned this year is to take risks and try new things.  If something doesn’t work out, it is okay and there will be something else to try.  I have joined new organizations on campus, applied for jobs, and I am returning to Europe to study abroad for a second time this spring.

This past year has also taught me that hard work does pay off and this motivates me for the upcoming years.  I got accepted into the Early Childhood Education B.S.Ed. Program and I have maintained a 4.0 all four semesters.  Over the next two years, I plan to continue to be an A student as well as take on more responsibilities by adding a part-time job to my schedule.  Hard work and commitment is something I value and I want to continue to pursue both of these.

In the upcoming years, I do not plan to stay comfortable where I am.  I want to continue to seek out new ways to offer up my time to others through volunteering as well as dive deep into my major.  I also plan to continue deepening the friendships I have, as well as seek out new friends.  I find it very hard to believe that my college years are halfway through.  I am looking forward to what the future holds and I am ready to face it by taking on more responsibility and continuing to learn more deeply about the field in which I want to pursue.


To maintain my physical health, I currently work out every day and eat healthy. I walk everywhere on campus and I try to get eight hours of sleep a night.

To maintain my mental health, I keep a healthy balance of how much time I spend on school and socializing. I surround myself with positive people and I practice time management. I make time for my faith and for things I enjoy doing such as spending time outside or spending time with family and friends.

Academic Enrichment

In the HSS Scholars Program

I am a part of Kappa Phi Kappa which is an Education Organization dedicated to teaching its members more about the current education world and giving its members opportunities to work with kids

Completed two semesters of FEEP which gave me field experience in Early Childhood Education

I am going to have an interview with the Reading Intervention Specialist at The Dowd Education Center where I volunteer.

Original Inquiry

Using what I learn in my classes to help actual students. Performing running records to help determine kids’ reading level and facilitating activities with students that include teaching and learning with drama

Part of the STEP Program


To be able to teach kids, grades k-5, not only the grade level curriculum but also life skills and a passion for learning


The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

Expected Graduation Date: May 2018

Major: Early Childhood Education, B.S.Ed. Program

Upper Arlington High School, Columbus, OH – Graduated June 2014, GPA: 4.07 (Top 10% of class, Cum Laude Society, N!ational Honors Society)


Spain Global May Program- (May 2016)
Kappa Phi Kappa (December 2015-present)-Education Fraternity
STEP (August 2015-present)-Second Year Transformational Experience
Global May Hungary (May 2105)- Studied abroad for the month of May in Budapest
Co-ed Intramural Soccer Team (January 2015-March 2015)- OSU co-ed intramural soccer team
Health Sciences Scholars (HSS) Program (August 2014-present)-Chosen to participate in a competitive, community-based program for first and second year students interested in health- related careers; attend weekly seminar course and relevant HSS events, complete 40 service hours per year
Greek Cru/Real Life (August 2014-present)-Christian Group, Lead a Bible Study, Action Group
Residential Leadership Engagement Advocacy Development (R-LEAD) Program (August 2014- Spring 2015) -Selected for program due to leadership skills prior to Ohio State, head start program for emerging campus leaders in residence life
Diverse Scholars Program (August 2014-Spring 2015)-Engage in dialogue and attend events to learn about other cultures
OWL Program (August 23rd)-Helped the freshman class move in

High School:
Young Life (August 2012-June 2014); Link Crew, Peer Collaboration, Bear Guide (August 2012- June 2014); Varsity Soccer Team (Fall 2011, 2012, 2013); Club Soccer (Winter and Spring 2010, 2011, 2012)


The National Society of Leadership and Success (Spring 2016)
Dean’s List (AU15-present)
The National Society of Collegiate Scholars (The Ohio State University Chapter) – (March 2015-present)Trustees Scholarship (August 2014-present)

High School:
Student Council Member (August 2013-June 2014); Teen Institute Leader (August 2012- June 2014); D1 All Star Soccer Game (October 2013); Homecoming Queen (September 2013); Varsity Soccer Captain (Summer and Fall 2013)



The Columbus Dream Center (Spring 2016-present)-Super Saturdays with the kids and serving meals to the homeless

Best Buddies (September 2015-present)-I have a buddy with Autism who I mentor and spend time with

Reading Mentor at The Dowd Education Center (September 2015-present)-Help individuals with their reading skills

Semester of Service (January 2015-present)-Working with The Dowd Education Center for the entire Spring Semester

Buckeyethon (October 2014-February 2015)-Co-captain for the Park Stradley Hall Team

Broad Street After School Program (October 2014-December 2014)-Help kids from Columbus Public Schools with homework

High School:
Special Olympics (August 2013-June 2014)-Volunteered with swim team, two basketball teams, and tennis team

JDRF (November 2013- June 2014)-Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, helped with tasks around office

Math 1125/1126 Tutor (Spring Semester 2016)- helping peers this semester who are in Math 1125 or 1126 Nanny (Summer 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)