March 9–13 is national AmeriCorps Week, a time to recognize the work of Austin ISD AmeriCorps volunteers.
Now in its second year, the AISD AmeriCorps program includes 18 full-time volunteers at Reagan Early College High School and Travis High School.
The main goal for AISD AmeriCorps members is to help improve graduation rates at the two high schools.
Members serve as tutors in English language arts and math classes, primarily working with freshmen who may need extra help.
La Shae Jones, an ELA Success Tutor at Reagan, said she joined AmeriCorps for the service aspect and to get more experience after graduation from Stephen F. Austin University.
That experience has been more intense than she expected, she said.
“I had no idea that this year would change my life so drastically,” Jones said. “Reagan’s school environment and diverse student body has opened my eyes to how strong and dedicated the staff and students are.”
Jones works with English language learners at Reagan and said their determination and hard work has pushed her toward a new career.
“These are students who have come from around the world and are learning English, as well as trying to understand reading concepts such as fiction, drama and expository writings. These kids have to work twice as hard as their peers due to the language barrier… and their progress is astounding,” she said. “Although I'm helping them tremendously, they're helping me even more. Because of my students, I have officially decided to get my teacher certification in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language).”
AISD AmeriCorps members also serve by tutoring students after school and at lunch, and they participate in monthly service activities that benefit the community.
Ky Goodman, an ELA Success Tutor at Travis, said she loves the work because she is able to personalize the lessons and tailor them to each student’s needs.
“I do my best to bring life to written words by pulling in goofy examples and dramatic reading skills,” she said. “I love my job because I see my students growing. Their reading and writing skills have developed dramatically since the beginning of the year, and I can see positive growth in other areas of their lives as well.”
Goodman said her students have helped her to grow, too.
“They have taught me how to be flexible [and] resilient and see life in new, beautiful ways,” she said. “They're amazing, we're learning amazing things together and I can't wait to see the amazing people they grow up to be.”