ReadingCorps: A Transformative Experience

In 2020, the Hindman Settlement School received an AmeriCorps grant, which allowed us to hire up to 40 full-time tutors to serve in Knott, Perry and Leslie county schools. Many of these tutors began service in August regardless of the consistency of school closures due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Last week, our tutors were asked share some of their thoughts about their tutoring experience so far. I have listed just a few of their responses. 

Jasmine recalled her experience as a tutor with the following statement: “My experience as a ReadingCorps member has been much different than I anticipated.  When I first began, I thought this was just going to be like any other job. Just go through the motions and stick it out to get the education award.  I was so wrong!  I never anticipated how attached I would get to my students!  There is such a rush when one of my kids grasps a concept that they have been struggling with, or when I look at their assessments and I can see their growth.  Last night as I tutored, one of my kids drew me a heart and told me I was the best teacher they ever had.”

Retired teacher, Rob, recounted his time as a ReadingCorps tutor in the following words: “There have been many pros that I have experienced as a ReadingCorps tutor. First, I get to work with children. This is why educators teach. It’s all about the kids. Also, I’ve had to encourage myself to do things that are out of my comfort zone. Meeting new people and setting up schedules with teachers are difficult things for an introvert like me, but I am glad that I was able to do both. Third, I got to be a part of Jones Fork Elementary. It was great going to the same work location every day and getting to know the staff and the kids. It feels like home. Finally, I have had great training and support. If I have a question, all I have to do is ask and I felt very prepared when I started tutoring the children. I definitely feel like I have grown and become a better person because of this experience. There have been a few cons as well. I was hoping for an opportunity to get to know and connect with the other tutors, but due to the COVID situation we did not get to do this. I hope I have had a positive impact on others. The children who consistently logged on are the ones who benefited the most.”

Denae holds her position in reverence, stating: “Occasionally, we unwittingly place ourselves into positions that change our lives. Reflecting back on my time as an AmeriCorps member, it’s clear to me that the only word I can use to describe my experience is transformative. Several months ago, I was just a college student who was fed up with retail and struggling to keep up with a new car payment. Desperate for change, I took to Indeed full of hope. I came across the ReadingCorps position and thought it was almost too good to be true. I had dreamed for years of being a teacher, and this would be the perfect opportunity for me,  I just knew it. Nervously, I applied, and it wasn’t long until I’d got the position—one with a purpose.  And I was right.  The ReadingCorps program serves an amazing purpose.  Reading has always been a passion of mine and to share that with children is a wonderful thing.  The Hindman Settlement School’s dyslexia program touched my heart before I ever stepped foot on my service site. The first few weeks of onsite service were dull, to say the least – mostly talkig to teachers, calling parents, and scheduling students, but soon it was time for my first time to actually tutor a student.  My stomach was full of butterflies and my heart was full of joy as I sat down at my computer and got ready to start. A few hours later, I sat in my car, started the engine, and sobbed. My time as an AmeriCorps member, and a reading tutor to be more specific, has been truly life changing. It’s changed my outlook on myself, on life, it even changed my college major and future career path. In truth, serving with AmeriCorps is not an easy position. It’s hard work, it’s stressful, it’s frustrating, but above all, it’s worth it. It is so worth it to see the look of “I got it” on a kid’s face.”

There is a lot I could say about our program, but I felt that the impact and tutor experiences was better reflected through their statements about the program. However, I will say that I am grateful to have recruited such a high caliber of individuals that have not only made a significant change in the life of a child, but have each seen growth in their character.