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2012 Winter Issue 4 (February 3, 2012)

Carleton alum trumpets benefits of AmeriCorps programs

February 3, 2012
By Amy Elson ‘10

“What are you doing after graduation?” That question drove me crazy my senior year at Carleton, mainly because I only had an answer three days before I graduated. If you’re as sick of that question as I was, here’s one way to have an answer: consider the Minnesota Reading Corps or Math Corps. They are AmeriCorps programs, and meaningful career experiences with which you can make a difference. I know this, because it’s what I do, but I also have proof.

Minnesota Reading Corps is a research-based program, designed to bring children age three through grade three up to speed in reading. I monitor the progress of my students once a week, and have a file full of graphs to show their growth. For being in an era where quantitative results are so important, and with one in four Minnesota third graders not being proficient in reading (that’s 15,000 kids!) it’s great to be able to show research, charts and numbers to anyone who asks.

But graphs only tell part of the story. The real joy is the day-to-day interactions with students. That’s the reason I’m doing Reading Corps for a second year. Last year, I was looking for experience in a school setting to help me determine whether I want to become a teacher, and I discovered that I do. I got my experience, but once I became part of my school’s community, I couldn’t bring myself to leave after only one year. That’s the reason I signed up to live off of a modest living stipend for a second year in a row. That’s why I have a 45 minute bus commute instead of finding somewhere to work closer to home. That’s why I, a Californian born and raised, am going to brave another Minnesota winter. Not so I can show you some graphs, but so I can do something I love, knowing I am making a difference with students not just academically, but at a personal level as well. There is no better feeling in the world than having a child brighten up when you walk in a room, or rush to give you a big hug.

I feel so lucky that I can honestly say that I love what I do, and I look forward to going to my site every day. If you want to be able to say that too, think about joining Minnesota Reading Corps or Math Corps. It’s not just for people who want to be teachers, and I think most Carleton grads are caring, friendly, hardworking people who would do wonders for the children of Minnesota. Reading Corps and Math Corps are for people who want to commit to a year of service making a difference, work with kids, or get to know a wonderful community. They are for people who want to take a break before grad school, have a position that looks good on a resume, put their loans into forbearance, and earn up to a $5,550 education award to go towards student loans or continuing their education.

If you’re anything like me, you may come to senior year still not knowing what you want to be when you grow up. Reading Corps or Math Corps are only year long commitments, so it’s perfect for discovering yourself, recharging for your next step in life, and being productive in the process. Imagine changing a child’s life. Now multiply that by the 1,200 tutors Minnesota Reading Corps and Math Corps aim to place in schools all around Minnesota next year. You can be one of them: check out www.JoinReadingCorps.org or www.JoinMathCorps.org.

--Submitted by Amy Elson ‘10

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