I am officially done with my 826 Valencia internship! It’s bittersweet. My last couple of days were spent with my fifth and third grade students, saying sad goodbyes and giving lots of hugs and candy. It is undeniable that I will miss these kids and think of them often as I begin school and interact with the young kids in my life at home, like neighbors and cousins. I learned a lot about the confidence and resilience of kids that I didn’t give them credit for before. There are many, many great things to take away from this internship. Not only were my students awesome, but the team of staff that led me through this summer was great and had a lot of lessons to send us off with.
On one of our final days, they set up a nonprofit panel of staff members to answer questions we had about the nonprofit sector and share the ways and reasons that they got involved in nonprofits. This got me really thinking about my future in the nonprofit sector and the different kinds of work I could do for organizations that really align with my core personal values. The panel gave me some ideas for learning to write grants and exploring programming vs development roles at different nonprofits that I’m interested in. Hopefully, this is something I’ll have time to pursue on the side during the fall semester in Ann Arbor.
Aside from professional development and some personal sadness, I am also feeling really excited to be back home in A2 and decide on my next steps. It’s nice to sleep in past 7am, but more importantly, I feel like I’m back in a decision-making place. As all of my summer commitments have ended and my fall commitments have yet to commence, I’m doing a lot of writing and reflecting on both my time at 826 and on my summers in general. My last few summers have taken me out of Ann Arbor — out of my comfort zone and my home town — and, upon my return, I always have some new perspective or new ideas about what I want to do in my life. I think that summer needs to remove me from usual stress and mindset (about school and money and such) and, instead, refocus me on something bigger than myself. This is often something that I can see my education being applied to. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity 826 gave me this year and to the Opportunity Hub for helping me pursue it. Having learned a thing or two about experiential education last year, I am now able to put those lessons into conversation with education gaps and disparities among racial groups. I’m excited to be transitioning between things and deciding how to incorporate these lessons into my semester!
I am hopeful that my experience at 826 was mutually beneficial as well, not only for the organization, but for the kids it serves. I am always skeptical of organizations that attempt to improve education systems by putting untrained, unpaid teachers in classrooms that ideally have trained, well-paid teachers in them. Here, I thought about this a lot, but summer camp isn’t a situation that normally includes paid teaching positions, and the partnerships the 826 forms with schools (as opposed to work around and without the school district) made me feel more at-ease. My biggest hope is that my small role in this big program had an impact on some of my students that made them feel capable and cherished in ways they didn’t before. Helping kids to know that they can succeed and that their success is important to an adult in their life can transform their writing and their behavior. If I had any impact at all this summer, I hope and believe that it was with the individual students I worked with.