The many names and faces of poverty…by Rebecca Page
Hi! I am serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Reading Success and Stay in School Programs at United Way of Lake County in Gurnee, Illinois. I chose to become an AmeriCorps VISTA member because after three years of being an unemployed ESL teacher, already being poor, and wanting to do something to help others, I answered the call. I presently work at United Way of Lake County and help in some way with almost all of our programs. In doing so, I get to meet many people in the city of Waukegan. One of those people is Victoria. She is just one of the many people I have met and had a chance to get to know this year as I have been and am serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Reading Success and Stay in School Programs at United Way of Lake County in Gurnee, Illinois. Victoria was attending one of our initiatives called “Computer Learn and Earn” where people who live in Waukegan, have kids attending either high school or middle school in Waukegan, and who attend three of our computers classes can earn a refurbished computer. In the classes we teach people how to access the internet, and then get on the Waukegan Public Schools website. Once they have done so, they log onto “Infinite Campus” where they can check their child’s grades and attendance. The whole purpose of this is to help the parents find ways to keep their kids to remain in school and graduate.
Victoria and her children are people in poverty who have names and faces, dreams, talents, abilities, family and friends. Working with United Way of Lake County has helped me to see individuals, not just “the poor.” I work primarily with the elementary and middle schools in Waukegan, Illinois. I have been able to work and help in some way with all of United Way’s four programs. From reading to children in school, to working with a local author, Joe Brown, to schedule him to read in six elementary schools, to writing newsletters, taking meeting minutes, attending meetings both within United Way and the community, to attempting to use my Spanish at Computer Learn and Earn classes, to meeting with teachers and school administrators about the Reading Success program. While doing so many things to help others who are in need, the one thing that I have not ever wanted to forget is that all of the people that we serve have names and faces, and are individual people.
United Way of Lake County, Gurnee, IL