Each quarter, AmeriCorps collects “Great Stories” from our 18 members throughout the region about their experiences assisting regional youth in their classrooms.
This month’s Great Story comes from Donna Brice:
Her name was Jaden. We met at the after-school program. She was just about the shyest little kindergartner that I’d ever met. Turns out she was new to our school, having just moved here from some place far away. When asked about it, she didn’t know where she came from or when or even where she lived now.
Jaden didn’t understand why her Mom made her stay at school after the other kids went home or when her Mom would be back for her. Those first few days she cried, stopped, then cried some more. She was totally attached to me.
Jaden started out working only with me. When it was time for me to go home each day, there were more tears, and I always promised to check in on her the next day in class. At first she knew only a few letters and really no letter sounds. She would have books with simple words and we would sound out each one. As time went on, she picked up on most of the letter sounds and started remembering some of the easier words. After a few months, she knew most of the words in her simple book. What a great boost of confidence I saw, when she started to be able to read.
With support, things changed for Jaden socially as well. She became more comfortable with the other kids in the after school group. She even made friends and started having a great time. Her giggle and her laugh were infectious. As the year progressed, I could usually tell right where Jaden was in the room because she wasn’t quiet anymore.
Working with kids can be so rewarding— but it can be frustrating as well.
One day, Jaden was gone. At first I thought maybe she was sick, maybe she was traveling for the holidays. But then another day passed without her. As time went on, her absence continued and I checked in with her teacher. She said Jaden’s family had moved several states away, without even letting the school know that she was leaving.
It’s frustrating to realize that a child who was making great strides in her education and social skills will likely fall back a few steps when she has to start it all over again. But it’s also rewarding to think of the progress Jaden was able to make in those few months and the confidence she gained.
Most rewarding of all is knowing that I played a part in making her a stronger little girl who is more ready for the world around her. Hopefully, as she moves on to yet another new place in her life, it will be a little bit easier because of the time we spent together—that’s the reason I enjoy working with kids everyday: They give so much more to me than I could ever give to them.