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Stories of Growth During First Semester

January 2021

We’ve received so many exciting stories of growth from our AmeriCorps members in the past few weeks. Here is just a small sampling of wins, achievements, and celebrations so far this school year.

“One of my first grade students, Carlos, just moved to this country. When we began letter sounds his inventory was 2/26. Today it’s 12/26 and I just can’t help but feel proud of how far we have come.” –Candid, Colorado Reading Corps, Aurora

“I had my first meeting of the semester with one of my students. I would usually have to grab him from the basement of the site, however, this spring semester I was grabbing another student from a biology class, and he said, ‘Hi miss, do you also need me?’ It made me feel very happy that I was able to see him attending classes. It was difficult to get him to most of his classes last semester and seeing him present in the classroom made me feel really good.”—Bhawana, Corps for a Change, Denver Public Schools

“I got to look at my site’s data for middle-of-year growth and almost all of my students have shown immense growth or are hitting their grade level benchmarks! It makes me feel so proud and reassured that my service is making an impact.” –Josh, Colorado Math Corps, Thompson School District

“One of my Kindergarten students when I first arrived knew only three letters in the alphabet. Also, they were super shy and would barely talk to anyone. That same student recently passed a letter test with 100% and was also finding words using letter sounds! They also have grown a lot more talkative and social. Their teacher says being in the program has definitely changed this kid for the better and I am so proud to be able to be a part of this.” –Ala’Zai, Colorado Reading Corps, Denver Public Schools

“I began working with a student last year who was still classified as a 9th grader despite being 16 years old. We worked through a lot of what was holding him back as a student and clarified his life goals. By this year, he has made academic progress, has almost finished his probation requirements (which he had not made any progress on before working with AmeriCorps), and has successfully transferred to a supported GED program. I am so excited to see such a distinct change in trajectory over the course of our work together. He is now on a completely different life path with a clear perspective on his future. I feel really proud of him.” –Brenna, Corps for a Change, Poudre School District

CYC Reengagement Specialist AlmaSue received this feedback on an intake survey. This student is enrolled into school and has been engaged at RiseUp. “AlmaSue is amazing! We are so thankful to have your organization helping us!”

Stories are lightly edited for clarity and grammar.

Quotes from students served by Corps for a Change

April 2021

CYC’s Corps for a Change program  focuses on school engagement by pairing AmeriCorps members with students facing decreased attendance. Members foster student success with weekly one-on-one meetings and also help connect them to resources both in and out of school. When asked about their assigned AmeriCorps members, here is what some student participants of Corps for a Change had to say:

  • “She helped me realize how important school was and how smart I can really be when I put my mind to it.
  • “He helps me understand where I’m at in school and he also cares about how I am feeling other than school and I am glad he asks that because nobody really checks in with me and how I feel.
  • “I’m grateful for my attendance support member because she’s always reaching out to me about class and asks if I need anything. Even though it’s a simple message saying hello and how I’m going, it makes me feel good that someone cares about my well-being.” 
  • “Usually when I would get behind I would stop and do the same thing but when she was there to help me she helped me want to do work and she would help me with some of it. She made it easier to do school and kept me calm when I would panic or stress too much.
  • “He talks to me like a real person and helps me set goals that are possible and helps me to try to stay positive and motivated.”

Elyse: Colorado Reading Corps program

Story as told by Reading Corps tutor, Winter 2021

Last semester was very chaotic with switching between in-person and online tutoring sessions. Yet even in the midst of this, so many of my students still grew in their confidence and ability to read! One student in particular who has grown exponentially is a first-grade girl, Elyse (name changed for privacy).

As I was baselining (testing) students in the fall, her teacher was initially hesitant to have me assess her as Elyse was very shy – almost to the point of being non-verbal. However, her teacher eventually rationalized that one-on-one attention might be good for her, and so we agreed to assess her and then decide where to go from there. Well, it turned out that she not only qualified for the program, but also fit very well into my intervention schedule. Soon after, she became my most consistent student.

Initially, her confidence with reading and speaking was very low. The only time she spoke in the first two weeks of teaching her was when I prompted her to say a letter sound or a word. However, even then I had to listen very closely as she often whispered or talked very quietly. She also struggled to remember her letter sounds in those early weeks.

However, it was when we switched to online learning that I quickly saw a major shift. As she started learning from home, her confidence grew and she started talking more and more each session. Learning in a space where she was more comfortable empowered her, and as she got to know me better, she slowly started showing me more and more of her life, including her favorite pets and toys at her house. She even introduced me to her grandma over Google Meets one day! As her confidence in her ability to interact one-on-one grew, her knowledge of letters and phonological awareness also grew exponentially.

Now that we are back in person, her growth is still evident. Though she is more shy in the school setting, she is much more communicative than she was a semester ago, especially in a one-on-one context! As for her reading ability, she is now able to blend/sound out words quickly, and has even started reading some short, beginner passages. This student is a perfect example of how students have differing needs and how important flexibility in learning is.  As we can see from the example of this young lady, many students are thriving from the increased one-on-one interaction allowed by online learning.

Darren: CYC Reengagement Program

Fall 2020

Darren (name changed to protect identity) lost his father and started experiencing homelessness, all in the same year. Even though he was a strong student and star athlete, he says no one helped him when he was going through the worst.

Colorado Youth for a Change (CYC) reached out to Darren after he stopped going to school and let him know that there were other options. With resilience and strength, Darren found a different school, and CYC’s Reengagement Specialist connected him with school personnel and supports, including one of the coaches. These adults saw what was missing outside of school and worked with Darren to fill the gaps. “I think when we all came together, that was the push he needed,” said Rebbecka, Darren’s Reengagement Specialist. Darren is doing great in school and is determined to graduate.

Emily: CYC Reading Corps program

Story as told by Reading Corps tutor, Spring 2020:

I have a 3rd grader, Emily (name changed to protect identity), who I have been pulling for tutoring services since September. When I first benchmarked her (test used to determine if she qualifies for the program), she read 80 words in a minute and had 10 errors. That is between 1st or 2nd grade level reading, so she was below grade level.

We have been working with a few interventions, trying to get her fluency and accuracy scores up. On the most recent progress monitoring (tests used once a week to determine growth), Emily achieved 139 words with 2 errors. She is now reading above grade level and just qualified to graduate out of the program.

When we first started working together, she was having a tough time in the classroom. I had no idea until her classroom teacher pulled me aside and asked how she was doing with me. She worked so well one-on-one, because she was getting the extra support that she needed and wasn’t feeling defeated.

She does great in the classroom now, and always wants to be the teacher’s assistant. Her self-confidence just continues to grow, and now she gets excited about challenges rather than shutting down. She actually asks me for more homework and tougher passages to read so she can show her mom how far she has come.

De’Janae: CYC You Count! Student Honoree

De’Janae Speech from Back to School Night 2019

Good evening,

I want to first start by giving my utmost appreciation and thanks to everyone who has helped me on my journey. Ms. Joy, for giving me this chance. Ms. Christina, for being not only a mentor to me but a friend, and my Futures community who have been with me the whole way.

I am an adopted student. I come from drug abused families and uneducated generations. However, I have always considered myself an excellent student.

During my senior year at Gateway High School, my father’s cancer had progressed and my mom was also diagnosed. I started working at Home Depot, taking more shifts and attending school less, in order to help provide for me and my family. Eventually, becoming a truant student forced me to find a new path.

At the age of 17 I was referred to Colorado Youth for a Change and Futures Academy, where I met Ms. Christina, my soon-to-be student advisor. Preceding my introduction of the post-secondary opportunities at Futures, I pursued taking full advantage of all this program had to offer.

I previously had concluded that my dreams and ambitions were over before being introduced to Colorado Youth for a Change. However, in the midst of pursuing my GED and with the help of a scholarship provided by Futures, I co-enrolled at Pickens Technical College in Advanced Manufacturing. I absolutely loved it.

But due to being the only black female in my class and continuous tribulations, I struggled with my confidence level. That year my dad passed away and in that same week I had welcomed an amazing baby girl.

After my first year I was beginning to feel behind, and it only got worse when I returned from maternity leave the previous year to a new professor. I was not only trying to be a full-time student during the day, but working full time overnight and taking care of my baby girl. By year two, my grades had dropped from straight A’s to all D grades and I quickly realized that if I wanted to graduate I needed to quit my job. So I am proud when I say that I finished the program in May of 2019 with my certification and of course members of Futures were there to help congratulate me!

But I didn’t want to stop there. I didn’t want to limit myself if I had the chance for more opportunities. My Futures community pushed me to strive for more. Today I am enrolled in the Esthetician program and look forward to obtaining not just a job – but a career. I will take my final GED test once I graduate from this program in the spring.

The Futures community has supported me every step of my journey, providing mental health counseling and outside resource help. From the moment I was accepted and unsure of my future, to moments where they noticed I was discouraged, retracting, and feeling defeated, they have helped me along the way.

I am proudly revealing my story today in hopes that people like Ms. Christina know that their work changes lives. And people like you know that this organization matters. They help break generational chains. They help provide a safe, encouraging community.

My dream is to be able to see this program still thriving when my daughter becomes a teenager. This is an organization I want my child to be a part of. I thank you for honoring me with this You Count award tonight. Thank you believing that I count.

De’Janae Q., September 2019

Beloved: CYC Reengagement program

Another year passed and as Beloved watched her friends on the stage getting a diploma, she realized she was falling behind. She transferred schools during both her freshman and sophomore years and began spending time doing things other than school. Her mom kept pushing her to take school seriously, but a lack of confidence and a toxic relationship limited her motivation. Then, Beloved decided to engage with the resources offered by CYC and work towards finishing school. Beloved finished all of her credits within three months. She got her GED and was concurrently enrolled in the Certified Nursing Assistant program at Emily Griffith Technical College. Today, Beloved is working part-time and taking classes to be an LPN.

Erick: CYC Reengagement program

When his mother lost her job during his sophomore year, Erick didn’t hesitate to become the provider. As the oldest of his siblings, he has always taken great pride in being a role model. He began a job in construction, often working grueling 12-hour days in overwhelming conditions. His schoolwork wasn’t any easier, but Erick was determined to complete his education while also caring for his family. During his junior year of high school, Erick had the highest SAT score at Montbello Career and Technical High School. But at the peak of his academic career and budding professional career, Erick had to leave school. Working and studying all day with little rest had begun to impact his personal life.

When Erick became involved with CYC  a few weeks before the 2018-2019 school year began, he was as dedicated to finishing his diploma as he was when he first left school. Luckily he only needed a few classes to graduate; however, he still needed to work and be in school full time. Within two weeks of starting school, his attendance was low and he was at risk of being dismissed yet again from Montbello Career and Tech. Erick advocated for himself to enroll as a GED student. In the GED program he had more flexibility and was able to work during the day. One and a half months after he started his GED course, Erick had passed all his tests with flying colors. Due to his hard work, dedication, and integrity, Erick graduated as the valedictorian of his class and spoke at the commencement ceremony in May. Erick is now working full-time in a warehouse in Denver and hopes to open an automotive business one day.

Janelle: Colorado Reading Corps AmeriCorps Member

When this student first started in the Reading Corps program, she put “McDonalds worker” down under the “future job” line on the All About Me form, but later in the year, she added that she was interested in being a doctor. Every day, we discussed how important and interesting education and reading are.

She went from saying she “couldn’t read” to saying she could and won the reading certificate for her first grade class at the end of the school year. She loved to read books by spring and increased her reading level by two years.

Throughout the year, she was so excited to bring back her Read At Home folder each day, and reread with me the books the program sent home with her. She ended the year feeling so proud that she could read entire books!

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