April Volunteer of the Month

When Claire first started volunteering, students called her “Neekta’s sister” — apparently seeing a resemblance to our on-site programs manager, who they still think lives in the writing center. Since then, Claire has developed lasting relationships with our students and continues to make after-school tutoring a space where “I know you can do this!” is the mantra. 826DC has been so lucky to have her with us and we wish her all kinds of success in her future endeavors!


How long have you volunteered with 826DC, and how did you get involved?

“I’ve been an After-School Tutor since January 2015 – nearly a year and a half, now! I had just moved to DC the preceding September, and I knew that I wanted to find a way to get involved in my community. I’ve long wanted to be a schoolteacher, too.

“Taking all of this into consideration, I began searching for volunteer opportunities with three criteria in mind: I was looking for an organization that 1) focused on education and children, 2) served my neighborhood of Columbia Heights/Petworth/Mount Pleasant, 3) would provide me with a chance to practice my teaching and tutoring skills.

“Clearly 826DC fit the bill, and, after finding the organization through an internet search, I signed up as part of the After-School Tutoring team.”

 

What will you take away from your time volunteering with 826DC?

“As I prepare to leave DC for a teacher preparation program in the Midwest, the biggest lesson I’ll take with me is this: show up, be present, be patient.

“There were some days of tutoring when I felt like I wasn’t making a difference, like I didn’t know how to be an effective tutor. And that was scary, especially for someone considering a teaching career! But the more I attended AST and the more I got to know 826DC’s amazing students, the more I learned to have faith in the slow pace of things. A concept that didn’t make sense one week suddenly clicked the next. A student that seemed unwilling to engage one afternoon would be focused and animated the next. Over time, I was able to learn new habits of how to speak to and encourage students.

“But I wouldn’t have witnessed this slow change if I didn’t show up. Even when I felt like a day hadn’t gone as planned, I learned to appreciate the small things that had gone right. These small things – a smile of recognition when I walked in the door, a conversation with a parent – were the building blocks of my connections with the students of 826DC. And these connections, in turn, made it easier for me and a student to work together on a difficult homework problem or a long assignment.

“As I prepare to become a high school teacher, I hope I can always remember this: that the slow work of connecting with a student is sometimes hard to perceive, but always worth the wait.”

 

What do you see as 826DC’s impact on our community?

“I believe that 826DC provides students with something very important: a place where reading, writing, and homework aren’t bound by the typical “rules of school.” I appreciate how 826DC encourages students to approach homework and with the same playful and confident spirit as their creative writing. I see tutors helping students build this confidence in their own abilities. “I know you can do this!” is one of the most common phrases of encouragement I hear at After-School Tutoring.

“I believe that this confidence can extend beyond the classroom and 826DC to many other areas of a student’s life, and that can have far-reaching impacts on their families and communities. Plus, a magic shop in Columbia Heights? That’s pretty awesome, too.”