From Barbie Dolls to AmeriCorps: Volunteering for the Greater Good
Hello Fellow AmeriCorps VISTA! My name is Kasseopia Davis and I have the distinguished privilege of serving my VISTA year at New York Cares, New York, New York. This non profit is New York’s premiere volunteer management organization; we connect with other nonprofit organizations to provide them with volunteer opportunities that cater to the agency’s needs free of cost!
Follow my journey of hope and inspiration as we explore my 2012-2013 term of service. Since childhood I have always exhibited an infatuation with all aspects of the English Language. From a young girl I was always aware of the importance placed on the ability to read and write well because each played an important factor in achieving academic excellence. As an adolescent I would wake up early and role play the duties of an English teacher. I would make lesson plans for my students, Barbie and Ken, while also making sure that the living room provided an adequate environment that stimulated learning so that each student’s individual educational needs were met. Although, Barbie and Ken never participated in classroom discussions they always passed numerous pop quizzes and test so I knew what my calling was, I knew in order to inspire youth of the future and prepare them to become successful adults I needed to become a teacher.
During my first year of college at the University of Hartford I volunteered as a Peer Mentor in the under resourced regions of downtown Hartford, for an organization called Educational Main Street. This agency was a resource that allowed University of Hartford students the ability to enhance the lives of urban school students through academic, social, and creative peer mentoring. The role of an Educational Main Street peer mentor was to support and strengthen families by providing students with the academic and social support needed to excel in their studies, in assisting students in developing their own unique style of effective study habits that they can follow throughout all their educational years.
After fours of volunteering with the program I begin to notice that obtaining a degree in Creative Writing could only help the educational needs of society, however there was another need that society yearned for—social change. This experience exposed me to the imparities created in society and how its effects provide a troubling and difficult environment for the people, especially in regards to the physical and psychological damage it has on children. It also brought awareness to one of the many social issues that plagued not only the inner city of Hartford’s educational institutions but, all inner city educational institutions around the world—poverty and how it affects children’s learning processes. From this point on I knew what my mission would be; I was destined to help at risk youths and their families with the adequate services needed to enhance their quality of life.
Fast forward three years and two dead-in jobs later I was blessed to be accepted into the AmeriCorps VISTA program and finally find an organization that shares my values and also have a desire to help under resourced communities-New York Cares. My current role presents an opportunity for me to implement Children’s Educational Programming for two out of four of our partner schools, PS 107 X located in the Soundview section of the Bronx and PS 366 M-Washington Heights Academy located in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. On December 15th I launched my first Saturday Homework Help program at PS 107 X that provides academic support to 72 students. With almost 85% of families at PS 107 X living below the poverty line many of the students are falling behind in their studies due to budget cuts and lack of resources. The Homework Help program provides academic support through homework help and enrichment games to students in 2nd through 5th grade. Volunteers assist students in strengthening their literacy skills, reading comprehension, and vocabulary by reviewing homework assignments and increase basic math concepts by playing math enriching educational games.
I recently developed a Math Games program at PS 366 M- Washington Heights Academy that provides 25 students in 3rd grade, many of whom are the only English speaking person in their families, with additional math support aimed at reinforcing basic math concepts such as addition, subtraction, logic, critical thinking, and problem solving by playing math games with volunteers.
I’m looking forward to implementing many more children’s educational programming before my VISTA year is over. Each day I wake up I’m happy to know that I am making a difference in the world and helping the next generation of VISTA’s reach their potential and aspire to do great things.
To my fellow VISTA’s always remember this:“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”- Harriet Tubman
Student Academic Success Associate, Education Programs
New York Cares, Inc.