Why I Serve: AmeriCorps Summer Brain Gain
WRITTEN BY CASSANDRA GOLDMAN
AMERICORPS STEM CONNECT MEMBER
I’m Cassandra Goldman, a STEM Connect AmeriCorps member, and that is the question of my summer. Why am I here?
I applied to AmeriCorps out of college because I hoped that by volunteering I could attempt to give to others some opportunities that I was fortunate enough to have had.
The purpose of my AmeriCorps service is implementing a program called Summer Brain Gain at the Wattles Boys and Girls Club in Portland. Brain Gain’s goal is to provide enriching academic and active programs for children to participate in that will stimulate learning in order to prevent learning loss. Summer learning loss is the phenomenon where kids lose their previous academic knowledge over the holiday due to lack of stimulation. This opportunity gap can result in a child arriving two months behind at the start of the next school year, and if it continues, two grade levels behind by the end of elementary school.
Serving at the Boys and Girls Club I worked with other AmeriCorps members spread throughout the Portland metropolitan area to create day-to-day lesson plans filling two hours per day with academic and active programs.
In the beginning, I would walk into the room at 1:30 PM and hear groans, “Ohhh no, it’s the Brain GAME lady.” Teaching kids material over the summer… it’s not easy! The program has been a balancing act of learning to disguise information into non-traditional lessons.
With the help of staff we survived the first couple of weeks and began getting it down to a routine. Soon enough, I was able to see the progress we were making: their minds at work as they tried to figure out what eco-friendly machine they could make to better the planet, or their sighs as they picked up their fallen tower of toothpicks and marshmallows, restarting their creation.
“I am confident that with the continuation of summer stimulation and enrichment these kids will not fall behind but bound forward. Consequently, the opportunity gap won’t lead to lost jobs but to higher achievement levels.”
Now, with the last weeks of summer, I have seen kids run to pick up their projects and show their families. I find myself not able to hide my smile when I hear a child explain to their mom the importance of wearing the eclipse glasses and what the corona of the sun is.
So it may seem like a long trip to make across the country to teach for a summer, but I think AmeriCorps and the Boys and Girls Club has provided me an opportunity to do incredible things. I believe that as long as one child has learned something from my service both of these organizations would agree the trip was worth it.
Not to mention, the data collected from the club shows most knowledge was retained this summer… and even some increases. (Way to go Wattles!)
I suppose, to some, it seems like a small detail—tackling the summer months. However, I am confident that with the continuation of summer stimulation and enrichment these kids will not fall behind but bound forward. Consequently, the opportunity gap won’t lead to lost jobs but to higher achievement levels.
So… with results like those I answer all of you questioning me about why I am here: Where else would “Brain Game Lady” rather be?!