Friday, September 6, 2013

"Working" To Make A Difference

Being a second year Literacy AmeriCorps (LAC) member have many perks. The program and what to expect for the year is no longer a mystery. Getting around South Florida no longer gives you nightmares and makes you loose sleep. You're seen as a "veteran" and everyone wants to know what you know. However, the best benefit is the opportunity to pick the site that you want to serve at first before any interviews happen. It was through this advantage that I ended up serving at EdVenture Charter School for this year!

My service year at The Lord's Place (the site that I served at during my first year in LAC) was a fantastic opportunity that enabled me to make some pretty amazing networking connections. I was also exposed to a population of society that is constantly overlooked and under represented. However, I wanted a different experience for this service year that would allow me to teach and work with the same group of students for the entire year. Enter EdVenture Charter School!

EdVenture is a school that serves students between the ages of 15 and 22 that have behavioral, social, and/or academic issues and are not able to successfully function in the public school system. One of the really unique things about this school is the fact that there is also a vocational aspect built into the curriculum. Students that are apart of the EdVenture family have the ultimate goal of reaching the Green Card level. This level is achieved through earning an average number of points each week for 9 straight weeks. It is only after students reach Green Card and successfully complete close to 600 hours of employment that they can graduate from the school with an Option 2 Diploma.

I've been serving at the school for two weeks now and can already see that this is the perfect fit for me. The students can be a bit rough at times (I was recently called a "white cracker" by a disgruntled student the other day), but I've already made some pretty awesome connections with some of them. Some highlights include:

- One student telling me on the first day that I'm going to be his best friend by the end of the year and then letting me know that he already likes me better than last years AmeriCorps member (sorry Kayla!)

- One student in the GED prep class already giving me a nickname and greeting me when I get to school in the morning - all of this after 2 days at the school!

- Connecting with one student that has attendance issues by giving him my lanyard from last year and making a deal that in order for him to continue possessing it he had to show up to school at least three days a week (I'm gonna bump that up to four days in a bit - gotta start small)

I'm can't wait to see what the rest of the year is going to bring and what type of experiences I'm going to have. This will definitely be a year of growth and I'm looking forward to seeing the growth of my students!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Round 2 - Still Getting Things Done!!

So I'm back in South Florida! In the middle of last year, I decided that I wanted to do a second year with the Literacy AmeriCorps program down here. It was a difficult decision, as I ended up turning down an opportunity to serve with the Peace Corps, but there was just something about this program that made me come back. So far, it seems to be the right decision!

The new members started moving down and into their new homes in Las Ventanas at the beginning of August. After slowly meeting them a couple of days before training started, it was determined that this is going to be a pretty good group. Two weeks of orientation came and went. A lot of the trainings were the same as last year, so that was a bit of a drag, but we made it through.

One of the highlights of the training was definitely the a version of the reality show The Amazing Race that I had conjured up at the end of last year. I am a huge reality show fan and The Amazing Race is definitely one of my favorites of all time!! The new members were divided up into 8 teams of 4 and raced around the Boynton Beach and Delray Beach area, completing various tasks at some spots that could become popular hangouts over the course of the year. Congrats once again to the Yellow Team (Sara S., James, Priscille, and Brittany P.) for a great job in coming in first!

The wrap-up of orientation signaled the start at our sites for this year! I'm so excited to be serving at EdVenture Charter School for this year! This school serves students between the ages of 15 and 22 that have behavioral, academic, and/or social issues and have not been able to find success in the regular public school system. I work with another teacher in a Language Arts classroom and am helping low level readers improve their confidence in reading. We also have two small classes of students that are on track to take the GED and Carly (my co-teacher) and I are working with to help get them ready for the Language Arts portion. (I'm going to write a more in-depth post about my site in a few days)

So far everything is off to a great start! The new members are adjusting to life in Florida. The returning members are readjusting to having a routine again and getting to know everyone in the group. I'm pumped to see where this year will take me! To another great year with a new AmeriFam!!

The Literacy AmeriCorps group for 2013-2014!!