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By: Ellie Bullard

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“My wall is full of drawings students made for me”: How this AmeriCorps member connected with students during distance learning

When Alex began her service during distance learning, she noticed right away how challenging it was to connect with middle schoolers. Some of them had their cameras turned off even during one-on-one meetings, only responding minimally in the chat. 

As a Minnesota Alliance With Youth Promise Fellow, a big part of Alex’s role was to connect with students and help guide them through their academic journey – so she knew she’d have to figure out a way to get to students. She started by making a fun “get to know me” presentation about herself that she’d share with students in one-on-one meetings to help them feel more comfortable with her. 

Once distance learning became hybrid learning, Alex was able to come up with more ways to reach students. She instituted Funday Friday, during which students could play a game or do an activity they wanted to do if they had completed a weekly goal. She and each of her students would also write down compliments about each other at the end of their one-on-one meetings, which they collected into an “Affirmation Bag”. Once the year was over, every student had a bag full of affirmations and compliments to look back on. 

Serving in school came naturally to Alex, which was especially exciting for her because it tied in with her undergraduate degree in social work from the College of St. Scholastica. “Service was a way to get my foot in the door, to see if working in a school is what I wanted to do,” Alex said. “Doing this service and also collaborating with the staff there really affirmed that this is what I wanted.” 

The staff at Alex’s service site absolutely agreed that her service year had been a big success – so much so that they even collaborated to find a position at the school for her the following year. Alex now works as a Behavior Interventionist at the same middle school where she served. Day-to-day, she’s still doing some of the academic and emotional support, working with kids on goals and assignments, but also relationship-building to help create a comfortable space for them. She’s also supporting the behavior team as they take students aside after a classroom disruption. 

At her new job, Alex has a wall full of photo memories from her time with AmeriCorps. “My wall is full of drawings students made for me, and also photos with them,” she said. “That was just the most meaningful part of my experience. It’s not necessarily easy working in education right now, but what keeps me going are the students and staff I work with.” 

Alex has continued her connection with AmeriCorps – she now works as an AmeriCorps recruitment specialist with the Minnesota Alliance With Youth. She also supported a recent ServeMinnesota collaborative project with YouthPrise to get feedback from Black, Indigenous, and Youth of Color on how AmeriCorps programs could better serve them. These two experiences combined “…really make me want to be intentional about making sure BIPOC youth are being heard and are hearing about these opportunities,” she said

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