Although I have just completed my second year of teaching, I like to think my career really began eight years ago when I was assigned to work for the 21st Century Afterschool Program at Hanshaw Jr. High. I was a first-year college student back then, I was assigned to be a tutor through CSU Stanislaus' PAD program, and I had long ago abandoned my childhood dream of becoming a teacher. I stayed with the program for six years. I was an academic mentor, an AVID tutor, a Tae Bo instructor, a role model and a friend to these students. I saw four academic case managers come and go. I watched the program peak and flourish. I proudly attended six graduation ceremonies. I learned that a student is so much more than a face, an attitude, and a smile. I wanted to be a teacher again.
The 21st Century Program did so much for my future and for the future of the students who experienced the program. It was more than afterschool tutoring and recreation. We developed entities at our program that brought culture, self-esteem, happiness, life-skills, and support to so many children. For some, we were the only the positive adult figures in their lives. I was so lucky to be there. I worked with people who loved children and truly cared about their well-being. I will never forget my experiences at Hanshaw. Through them, I learned the real life issues involved in teaching.
My students walk into my classroom with weights on their shoulders; the weight of their world. My job is to give them an education, provide support, and acknowledge that weight. I owe this insight to my mentors who taught me what it means to give back to the community, the 21st Century Director and all the past academic case managers: John, Jaime, Manuel, Jorge, and Jose. Thank you.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Hanshaw 21st Century Afterschool Program received a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant.