Op-ed: Giving back to the community

By Keon White-Jones 

Growing up in Roxbury, you could always find me tutoring my peers in school. Today, you can spot me in a red jacket, giving back to my community with City Year.

After graduating from Brighton High School, I wasn’t sure of my next steps, but I knew I wanted to help other students like me. I believe a leader is someone who sets the right example for others, and that’s why I joined City Year. I wanted to make a difference in the BPS community and open myself up to new opportunities.

Today, I’m serving with the Orchard Gardens K-8 School in Roxbury, where I tutor and mentor 4th graders in an English class. I’m on a team with eight other AmeriCorps members, and we work with the school to promote a positive learning environment for students. In the morning, we greet students and get them excited for class and check on attendance. We also support the afterschool program and plan fun activities like kickball and homework help.

During the day, I work with my partner teacher, Ms. Minion to help students understand the lesson. Many of my students are English Language Learners and need additional attention to help them learn. When the teacher is leading the class, I sit with a few students and work on their vocabulary or comprehension. I bring their interests into the classroom, and whether it’s talking about Fortnite or new dance moves, I use those conversations to motivate their learning. As an AmeriCorps member, I’m a helping hand in the classroom and someone they can talk to.

My students are learning how to be leaders and set a good example with other students. It’s early in the school year, but I’m proud to see how they’re growing and learning. Service has taught me that it’s not just about what you’re doing each day – but what you’re doing it for. I enjoy bonding with my students. I don’t call it work, it’s doing something I love. After this year, I plan on studying to become a guidance counselor for elementary and middle school.

Keon White-Jones is a Mission Hill resident who is giving back by completing a year of public service in education as a City Year Boston AmeriCorps member. Keon is serving with Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. For more information, visit Cityyear.org/boston.

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