Sam never planned on helping kids read. He studied economics in college and got a job in the field after graduation. After working for a few years, he needed a change. He wanted to make a difference in his community, so he joined Reading Corps!
“I wasn’t really passionate about my 9-5 job,” he says. “I’ve always been drawn to public service. The idea of being able to help people in my community has always guided my decision-making.”
Sam learned about AmeriCorps from his friends who had served in other programs. Having a personal connection to reading, he chose to become a Reading Tutor. “I thought about how much of an impact reading has had on my life. As a kid, I was always an avid reader, but a lot of my friends didn’t have the same knack for it,” he says. “I saw how much other people and family members struggled with it. I knew that reading is a pathway, not just for enjoyment, but for people to have literacy and be able to find meaning and protect themselves.”
When he started training his first year, his motivation only grew stronger. “During one of the first trainings, they talked about the statistics, and I was floored,” he says. According to the 2022 Nation’s Report Card, fourth and eighth grade reading scores across the country were at the lowest they had been since the assessment began in 2005. “It lit the fire under me to go out there and make sure there are 20 fewer kids who don’t end up not knowing how to read.”
Benefits of consistency in tutoring
While Reading Corps’ first goal is to help students become great readers, tutoring does so much more. Seeing the same students every day, tutors play a part in their students’ improvements and build relationships with them throughout the school year. Research even shows that strong relationships between students and their tutors can lead to better educational outcomes!
“A student who I’ve been working with since day one, he would come to my desk for the first year and a half and not want to do any reading,” Sam says. “Working through frustration and seeing him become motivated to read, going from reading 10 words a minute to like, a hundred, it’s one of the top five professional experiences in my life so far.”
This progress – supported by the consistency of the tutoring – has kept Sam coming back to serve for four years. “I really wanted to see some kids through to the end who I’ve been working with the last couple years,” he says. “I think that really helps build a trusting bond and helps them feel comfortable. Having that kind of relationship is sometimes more important than anything else.”
Benefits of service
Serving in an AmeriCorps program has lots of benefits, one being gaining professional experience. Sam sees his service benefiting him in the future, no matter what path he takes! “My experience the last few years has definitely made me confident that wherever I go, I can build relationships with others,” he says. “I have a lot of confidence in my ability to connect.”
All in all, tutoring has been a highlight that Sam can look forward to every day.
“It’s been a really awesome experience getting to be involved in the lives of young people,” he says. “It’s given me a lot of inspiration seeing the younger generations who will one day be in my shoes and building a future that’s better for them. With everything that’s been going on the last few years, going into school and seeing that kids are still just being kids makes the world seem a little less grim sometimes.”
Minnesota kids still need tutors! If you or someone you know are interested in helping students improve their reading skills, visit join.readingandmath.org to apply. Apply by October 4 and start serving in late October!