Charles H. Barrows STEM Academy
From Student Jillian McDermott, April 18, 2016
I am currently taking a course with Nicolas Simon which offered me the opportunity to volunteer and the post below describes my wonderful experience at Barrows STEM Academy.
What Happens After School…
I had worked as a counselor at a local summer camp for two years, so as I arrived at the Charles H. Barrows STEM Academy for my first day of volunteering, I was eager to be around the fresh minds that children possess. The students welcomed me immediately as I sat at a random table in the cafeteria. As more students entered the cafeteria to join their homework groups for the after-school program I could tell they knew I had never been there before. Some were shy and hesitant but most of the children smiled and waved at me from across the cafeteria, others gave me hugs while asking for my name. I knew, from the experience I had from working with children, that the longer I was there the more they would open up. So at first, I sat quietly. After the first few weeks I was greeted with smiles and hugs as I walked through the cafeteria doors, which warmed my heart because I knew the students looked forward to my presence on Wednesdays after school.
At the start of the after school program, students entered the cafeteria and socialized with friends and peers. Attendance was taken, snack was had and by 3:30 PM homework groups were lining up one by one and exiting the cafeteria to resume to their homework stations. Each group had varied ages and also had an assigned group leader who oversaw and supervised and my role, as a volunteer was to assist. The group I joined each Wednesday afternoon had homework time in the library until 4:15. During this period I aided students with reading and spelling assignments, as well as math and science.
Every Wednesday I joined the same homework group as all of the children in the group expected me to be there and looked forward to my presence, but that did not stop the constant waves and smiles flashing at me from across the cafeteria. It intrigued me every week to hear what they had been learning about in class, what the social buzz was and just about the well being of the kids in general. I was always very impressed and proud of the students I worked with each week, as they are very bright children and full of life and energy. I looked forward to each Wednesday at 3:15 PM and the mere two hours I spent there felt too short.
Some children confided in me more than others but it was a very rewarding feeling to feel trusted and loved enough for these students to tell me emotional troubles, shared information about their siblings, their dad’s new job, their new baby cousin, a new movie they just saw or a scented pencil that smells like strawberry. I especially enjoyed the simple moments looking through optical illusion books and hearing their interpretations of what they saw or swinging on the swings and chatting together.
I also enjoyed participating in the cooking club with the first and second graders the first few weeks, as they learned proper (butter) knife handling, healthy eating, manners and hygiene while handling food. My favorite day of cooking club was they day we all made whole wheat chocolate chip cookies, especially since one of the students was not in the best particular mood and did not want to participate. By the end of the session, there was a smile on his face and they were all very “chocolate happy”, goofy and very cute. I did not have a bad day while volunteering at the STEM afterschool program. In fact, if I was having a bad day spending time with the kids at the afterschool program helped me to forget my troubles and truly live in the moment. I ended up enjoying every aspect of volunteering at Barrows since it didn’t matter so much the activity at hand, spending time with and serving the students and school made it all worthwhile.
The time I spent at Barrows STEM Academy benefited me just as much, if not more, as it benefited the children and school. I never saw myself volunteering due to the fact that I, like most people, have a very busy weekly schedule. However, the STEM Afterschool program worked into my schedule perfectly and I realized how much simpler it is than I thought to fit volunteering hours into a busy week. It has changed my college experience and I regret not finding a program to volunteer in sooner!