Stories of Service


By: admin


This stay-at-home dad’s second AmeriCorps term connected him to his new city

Jerrod and his family moved to Rochester from the Twin Cities area in late 2022 for his wife Rachel’s new job. As a stay-at-home parent, Jerrod was looking for ways to become part of the family’s new community; his Reading Corps service has started him thinking about more ways he might be able to serve.

We hear that you have a history with Reading Corps! What’s the back story?
I was a Reading Corps tutor up in the Twin Cities area 11 years ago, when I was in college! I had a great experience and worked with kids from all walks of life — I have always remembered one student from South Korea who didn’t speak much when we started working together but really opened up as an English speaker  while we were working together.

After our move, I happened to see a flyer for Reading Corps and thought, “hey, I loved doing that.”

So I applied in the fall of 2023, got to meet the staff at Churchill Elementary, and thought it was a great school. (I’ve always had a love of Winston Churchill, so that kind of sealed it.)


Why did you choose to become a tutor for a second time?
My oldest is in online school and thriving, and my wife works from home so we have some flexibility. And I was also very aware that COVID had had a big impact on learning, so kids might need some extra help. 

I wanted to give back to the community, knew I could be a good tutor and liked that I could help out a little more financially without putting too much of a burden on our family’s schedule. I like to get up early and have that built-in accountability factor, too.

It’s kind of like a homecoming, even though you’re in a new city! How is it going so far?
Seeing the students’ progress and their enthusiasm, getting to know their parents a little bit, it’s all been really great. When I get home after tutoring, I’m energized.

There’s a kindergarten student who’s the first one I work with, early in the morning. The first five or six weeks she was up and down and I was a little worried. And then one day it was like a plant shooting up. She went from knowing two or three letter wounds to more than 50, knows about blending words, has memorized the words she’s learned. If we have a couple of extra minutes at the end of our session I let her try out a few sentences from a first-grade story — she can read those, and she’s so proud! She’s loving the challenge. 

Another pair of students have become best friends, and they can never do enough — they want more words, faster, with the timer on. It’s fascinating to see which interventions stick and which don’t. Some kids love duet reading, some don’t; some love newscaster reading, where you sound like an anchorman. Everybody is unique.

Every day, you’re tracking and benchmarking what your students learn … what have you learned this year?
So many things! For example, that it’s important to create a safe space for making mistakes. I’m thinking of one second grader in particular who has tended to be so hard on herself. I’m big on sports metaphors: If you’re a great shooter in the NBA, you’re still only making 30% of your shots! I want students to know it’s OK to make mistakes, and my help isn’t to judge, it’s just to assist.

The reading teacher, Shayna Wood, who’s also my internal coach, was super helpful in showing me how to say what I want firmly and right up front. Communicating clear boundaries right away creates a positive environment and lets us have more fun in our sessions over the long run. My fellow tutor, Steve, is a retired guy, and we make a good team — I help him with tech support, and he can give me some really good lateral feedback.

What’s it been like to be a part of a school community?
I’ve really enjoyed observing the functions of the school administration, the teachers’ union and the school board, just learning how that all works together as a system. In fact, I recently attended a candidate training session that the Chamber of Commerce put on, to learn more about what it could take to run for a position on the school board or city council somewhere down the line.

Is it meaningful to you to be part of the larger organization of AmeriCorps?
In high school, I was in an ROTC program. In the end, I didn’t see myself joining the military — but I did learn that I was drawn to serving. When I first learned about AmeriCorps in college, it was super appealing to hear it described as “the domestic Peace Corps.” So it’s a good way for me to feel like I’m contributing. We represent our country and we’re serving our country.

Interested in serving with AmeriCorps? Check out Reading Corps and our other programs. If you’ve got questions, reach out to our recruitment team!

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