The main activities of my STEP Signature Project included: teaching the children of Valley View Elementary School literacy and to maintain equity and determination throughout the school’s daily routine. The main goal of my trip was to increase literacy in both the English and Spanish languages.
Before going to California, I had many preconceived assumptions. For example, I had assumed that majority of the children I would be working with would be coming from a “well-brought-up” family only because of the stereotypes of Californians seen in the media. I was not expecting to see many poverty-stricken children, and because of that I was not mentally prepared for the other issues that I would come to encounter besides school related issues.
While at Valley View, I became more aware of worldly problems that are significantly more serious than the literacy rate. Poverty and home life situations were just a couple of the main problems that I noticed. I realized that these two problems can really create an impact on what a child’s life at school can be like.
There was a student that is a Syrian refugee and could not speak English nor Spanish, which were the only two languages I could use to communicate. These were the only two languages that the school teaches as well. This created a huge barrier between the student and I, and I was not sure how I would approach this challenge. Over the next few days, I realized there are more ways to communicate than just verbalizing.
I began using hand gestures, objects, anything that I could to get some sort of understanding between the two of us. By the end of the week, she was able to recognize a few English words. This was a milestone for her and I both! I figured out a way to communicate to someone that could not speak the same language as me and had a timid personality on top of that; she was breaking out of her shell and learning to communicate in English.
After this experience, I appreciated the life I was given so much more as I saw the effects of what a life in another country could be like. This little girl seemed so frightened when I first met her, and it made me think of the horrible things that she must have experienced. Valley View might have been the only place where she felt safe, and I had the honor of being there to help feel safe and adapt to her new environment. It was an experience that led to my transformation that I will never forget.
The experience noted above is relevant to my professional goals because I am hoping to become a Physician Assistant and work with children in some way. The children that I will be working with in my near future may not all have the “perfect” life and may be dealing with hardships such as this, or any hardship at all. These kids will need more than just medical assistance; they will need a counselor and someone who truly cares about them. This is the type of care that I want to provide for my patients one day. I want to be more than just their Physician Assistant; I want to be anything and everything that I can to make their lives better.