Finding life-changing work at Guilford Elementary

April 2015: A warm spring day, right around the time I had officially declared that I would be a student at Loyola University Maryland come the fall.

Around this time, I had received a package stating that I was eligible for federal work study, a common need for students in college. Little did I know what job I would be placed in, where I would work, or what a work study position truly entailed.

Little did I know that my work study job would change my entire career path and lead me to what I wanted to do with my life.

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October 2015: A bright and cool fall day right around the time I had officially begun to understand Loyola, the culture here, the campus, and feel comfortable.

I had been applying and emailing different people about work study positions, but it was not until I received an email from York Road Initiative that I was able to find a good fit. The position involved becoming a partner in local schools and working with the community on York Road.

I distinctly remember walking to the York Road Partnership from campus for my interview, sitting at a large brown table and discussing the reasons I wanted to work in a school, my past experiences, and what I hoped to get out of a job such as the one I was applying for.

Later that week I received an email that I had gotten a position with York Road Initiative, and I remember being elated and ecstatic that I got such an amazing opportunity as a first-year student.

As soon as I could, I started working at Guilford Elementary/Middle School on York Road. I was a work-study student with the incredible Community School coordinator Ms. Lauren Linn, an employee of Strong City Baltimore. 

For the first year at Guilford, my responsibilities included helping Ms. Linn run different programs both during and after school as well as helping design school newsletters and flyers. As the year progressed, I got more and more involved in the school and eventuallybook-in-bag-pic began to work with the school psychologists on a number of different projects—including the Book In A Bag and Reading Intervention programs.

When I returned this fall to Loyola as a sophomore, I was eager to jump back into my work at and being involved in Guilford. This year, I would seize every opportunity my work-study position gave me.

My work with the school psychologist evolved into my running Book In A Bag, a program that provides students with two books and some worksheets for a week at a time. They are encouraged to to take home, read, and the goal is to improve their literacy skills—as well as give them resources and opportunities to work independently or with their family on their academic skills.

I am in charge of organizing and collecting the books each week and providing students with new ones. This program is for children in grades Pre-K-2, so I have to consider reading level, interest, age, curriculum, and ability in each of our book selections.

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The Reading Intervention program provides students literacy or phonological awareness skills. This program also serves children in Pre-K through grade 2, and allows the students who struggle with reading, phonological skills, or the alphabet to get more practice. I personally oversee interventions with three students, as well as as “supervisor” for the program, meaning I organize and oversee our cart, review the notes taken by volunteers to make sure the students are receiving quality interventions with as much detail as possible, and train volunteers for the program.

(Some of you may be wondering why and how I, only a sophomore, was chosen to be delegated these responsibilities… The answer: I worked on the program a great deal my first year and gained the trust of those who are above me, as well as performed well enough to be able to share my knowledge with other students.)

Being a work study student at Guilford Elementary has taught me that the important work in schools goes far beyond what teachers and administrators do to what every member of the school community does. And the involvement of these other people is beyond what I could have ever expected.

It is incredible to see and to realize how many people care about educating children, not just as Guilford, but everywhere; to see the amount of love and effort that goes into each and every project both in and outside of the classroom.

This is part of the reason why my experience at Guilford and these two initiatives have been, so far, the most influential things that have happened to me in my time at Loyola. Becoming a member of the Guilford community has changed my life. Not only has it made me realize that I want to be a teacher, and educate early learners, but that I want to be involved in more than just what happens in the classroom.

As a teacher, I hope to be able to organize and execute programs like Book In A Bag, programs that give my students every resource I can possibly give them. Though my job can be challenging at times, and there are obstacles in trying to keep everything organized and flowing properly, it is also the most rewarding experience of my life.

Sometimes I feel as if I spend more times in elementary school classrooms than I do in college classrooms, but the truth is right now, nothing makes me happier than that. There is nothing I love more than getting random hugs from first graders I don’t even know, to hearing the afternoon announcements or seeing a student begin to learn his or her alphabet because of the work I have done in the intervention program.

To me, there is nothing that has been more rewarding than walking through the doors of Guilford Elementary at least twice a week for the past year and a half. (And to think I got here because I needed a work study position…)

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