TF Spotlight: Alisha Park

In continuation of the "TF Spotlight" posts highlighting Citizen Schools AmeriCorps National Teaching Fellows' service, this contribution comes by way of a second year fellow from Citizen Schools New York - New Jersey, Alisha Park! We hope you take a moment to read Alisha’s reflections on her Teaching Fellow experience.

Why did you decide to become an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow?

During college, I had various opportunities to mentor students as a side activity from my academics.  From coaching middle school students in rowing to working with high school students in math, or supporting college first-years in their student jobs, mentoring was a natural activity  I didn’t realize it at the time.  Once I did, after graduating school, I wanted to continue! I found that Citizen Schools had a great balance of mentoring students through activities and building academic skills.  The bridge between both drew me to become a Teaching Fellow.  I also really like schools. Whether it’s walking in the school building or reading about education, the idea of school was always on my mind.  Subconsciously, I wanted to combine my passion for schools and mentoring.

What has been one of the most transformative moments of your service? One of the most transformative impactful moments of my service came at the beginning of this school year, as a TF2.  I went to my old campus to catch up with my former teacher partner and I ran into my former 6th grade students (all boys) from last year in their school’s hallway.  They embraced my presence as if I had known them for several years.  I already had known how much they impacted me, but that reunion showed me how much my year at Eagle Academy had supported them both academically and socio-emotionally.  We’ve had so many ups and downs from growing pains, and their hugs reminded me how much effort we had built to trust and push each other. I almost cried after leaving and this made me realize how much I miss them and how much service impacts students on all fronts, not just academically and in the classroom.

How has service changed you and/or your perspective of the world? Service through AmeriCorps has led me to seek out other volunteer opportunities with organizations such as Jersey Cares.  It cemented the idea that time (or spending time) is sometimes the most precious gift you can give someone or something because time enables action.  Moving to a new city pushed me to better recognize my education as a privilege.  I struggled with understanding how divisions between class and race shaped the lens through which my students saw the world.  But last year, after having spent time with them in the classroom, they gave me the ability to connect my view, having grown up in a very book-centric environment and a college town, with theirs.  The Fellowship has taught me to be less selfish and use my college education as a tool for me to continue learning something new from others and not just in a classroom.