Boushra began volunteering at her son’s elementary school as a way to learn about the American educational system. Today, she’s an AmeriCorps member in the Emerging Educators initiative, earning an associate degree in education at Minneapolis Community and Technical College while serving 18 hours a week as a Minnesota Reading Corps tutor at Rahn Elementary School near her home in Eagan.
What was going on in your life when you became a Reading Corps tutor?
One of my friends told me about Reading Corps as a way to make volunteering more professional and also get paid for my time. I looked over the application and found that Rahn Elementary, five minutes from my home, had a position. I started there in 2019 and worked for six months before COVID hit; the next year, I reapplied for the same position.
Last year was my third year at Rahn, and I knew that as a tutor I could only do four years. I love the atmosphere there, so I started to think about what job could bring me back. Kimberly Olson, my Reading Corps coach, said she’d love to see me come back because it’s important to have educators from many different communities — I’m a Muslim wearing a head scarf, or hijab — and she told me about Emerging Educators as a way to continue serving while also continuing my own education. I read her email and discussed it with my husband, who said, ‘This is like magic!’ I applied and in two days got the email that I was accepted.
What’s most rewarding about your Reading Corps service?
This week, I evaluated a student I started tutoring in kindergarten. Now she’s in third grade and reading above average. I was so happy I was about to cry, and she was so happy, too. Actually, seven of the third graders we evaluated don’t need tutoring anymore because they read so well now. The kids can see how happy I am because they’re doing so awesome. That confidence I deliver to the students makes me happy.
How are your own studies with the Emerging Educators initiative going?
This is my first time ever studying in the US, so I’m learning the system and how you choose your courses. That’s a privilege we don’t have back home. I started with six credits and now I’m taking 15; I’ll finish my degree in one year. When I studied English literature in Syria, I told my friends I’d never be a teacher — I thought I’d be a translator or something like that. So at the beginning I didn’t mean to love tutoring, but it ended up that I’m good at it! Now I’m in classes to become a real teacher.
What are your plans after you finish your associate degree through Emerging Educators?
I’m thinking about my options — maybe become a substitute, or maybe spend a year or two working as a paraprofessional, then back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree. My head is full already, and I have time to figure it out.
What advice do you have for someone who’s thinking about AmeriCorps service?
The US is a country of opportunity, so use it! If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work — but maybe it will click. There’s only one way to know, and that’s to try it. Don’t be shy about how you look or how you speak English — just be as you are.