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| VISTA Reflections
Reflections on a Year of National Service
Editor's Note: Two VISTA members have graciously volunteered to share their experiences as they complete their year of service. VISTA (VISTA--Volunteers in Service to America) is a stipened program where people share their talents to help build communities and the individuals in them (Think of it as a domestic Peace Corps program.) Each article is authored by a member of the Federal Way (WA) AmeriCorps and VISTA team. It is the individuals' personal story of service as up-close and personal as it comes.
Federal Way AmeriCorps and VISTA Team. Established in 1995, the Federal Way AmeriCorps program works to strengthen the Federal Way community through academic tutoring and modeling an ethic of service.
AmeriCorps members in Federal Way serve full time in the Federal Way Public Schools. In addition to tutoring students and developing before and after school programs, members manage two community tutoring programs, implement civic engagement community projects and serve in area service projects. AmeriCorps members also recruit and train community volunteers. For more information on their programs http://www.fwps.org/dept/volunteer/acfw.html
BY COLLEEN WILLENBRING
STUDENT VOLUNTEERS: A REPORT FROM THE FRONT LINE
As a Co-Lead at the Camelot Square After School Program I had the opportunity to see in a young student’s eye the impact a peer tutor makes when they enter into a child’s life. Here is a first person report from the child’s perspective.
"My shoe keeps coming untied and my pencil needs to be sharpened. On top of that, I have a really tough first grade reading assignment I need to finish. I don’t like to read. My AmeriCorps members at the program are pretty cool. They constantly remind me that reading can be hard work and that they are always here to help.
Wait a minute. It looks like someone else is here too. It’s some of the fifth graders. What are they doing here? The big kids’ days are on Tuesday and Thursday and this is clearly Wednesday. Us younger students have program on Monday and Wednesday. The AmeriCorps members split up the days like that, so that they can better meet the needs of the large number of us clamoring to be in program.
Speaking of clamoring, many of us are now vying for the attention of several of the above-mentioned big kids. They are so cool. They can run really fast and they do the coolest tricks with a soccer ball. Oh man, one of them is coming my way. What should I do? I wish I had thought to bring my autograph book today.
What’s this he is saying? He’s a student volunteer now. He’s going to be here during homework time to help us. He wants to be my new reading buddy. He’s going to sit here and patiently help me to sound out the big words. He also showed me how to tie a double knot, so my shoe won’t come untied as often. He also let me use his mechanical pencil. No more bothersome trips to the sharpener for me today.
Best of all, he’s not outside causing all sorts of mischief and misbehaving because he’s bored and got nothing better to do. He’s inside with us and having a good time doing something positive that he can be proud of himself for. When I grow up I want to be a student volunteer too."
Colleen Ann Willenbring graduated from Washington State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications in 2001. She is currently serving her third consecutive year with the Federal Way Public Schools AmeriCorps Team. She was the Logistics Team Lead for the FWPS AmeriCorps 2007/2008 civic engagement project. She also Co-Led the Camelot Square After School Program in 2008/2009 where she used her talents to create enticing lesson plans to engage elementary aged students.
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