Thursday, May 2, 2013

True Believer's

Everyone remembers those students that struggled in school. There were always a handful of students that never seemed able to make it to school on time, were always getting in trouble, or just couldn't keep up with the frantic pace that is America's public school system. Luckily nowadays, students that find themselves struggling with these problems or issues have alternate routes they can take to still attain an education. Many of these options are found in the form of charter schools that structure their day to cater to those students that just don't jive with the public school system. One of these schools is Believer's Academy.

Believer's Academy is one of the multiple sites that partners with AmeriCorps. This year, Believer's participated in Project Impact, an initiative through Volunteer Florida to help connect youth throughout the state of Florida with projects to help them beautify their communities and/or connect with populations that they might not be familiar with. Through the wonderful work of Sara Jacobs, the AmeriCorps volunteer who serves at Believer's, we were able to interact with the students at the school and prepare them for working with children at Renaissance Learning Center, a school for children with autism.

At the beginning of April, we were broken up into small groups, assigned to a class, and helped prepare them for the actual day of service. We participated in team builders, learned about working with children with autism, participated in a mock interview, and had the chance to get to know these students. This is definitely a population that many of our members have not been exposed to, so it was a great experience for everyone. For me, it was great because I was back in a classroom and it gave me a bit of an insight into the population that I hope to be working with next year during my second AmeriCorps year.

Last Friday, we headed back to Believer's to execute the actual day of service. We returned to the same classrooms, participated in some more fun activities, and worked with the staff and students at Renaissance. Seeing the students from Believer's reading, coloring, and interacting with the students at Renaissance was really special. It was so encouraging to see them act as positive role models and maturely. For many of the Believer's students, this was more than likely their first time being in close proximity with children with autism. This day enabled many of the students an opportunity to step outside of their comfort zone and try something new.