I have started volunteering at Govans Elementary School on York Road. There I assist the librarian with her responsibilities of putting away the books and giving lessons to all of the children that have library time each day. This school is in desperate need of more teachers and funding, which are some of the reasons the school is considered by the state to be a “failing school”. The entire staff is stretched too thin and it is important that they get volunteers on a regular basis; otherwise the school might not function.
On this past Thursday, I showed up for the first time to help out. I was surprised when I tried getting into the school, as the front doors were bolted shut and the only way to get in was to go to the side and get buzzed in by an office secretary. It was strange to see a school in such poor condition, many of the lockers did not close, and almost all of the water fountains were removed from the wall because they did not work. All five grades are squeezed together into two hallways on two floors. The walls are all different colors of paint, the lack of uniformity giving the appearance of a truly underfunded school.
The day began with a large number of books that needed to be put back onto the 12 or so shelves. There are enough books to fill about 15 shelves comfortably, but there is not enough money in this year’s budget to afford new ones. The day before, a class had a book scavenger hunt, but with all the commotion, the one librarian could not get around to all of the kids and make sure they were putting the books back. This left her with about 100 books to go back with very little extra time on her hands to do so. This was my first chance to help out, so I spent time doing that and learning the organization system of that small library.
The second part of that first day was spent helping the librarian with the lesson for the day. She brought in 8 kids from two different classes and sat them down at the one table in the center of the room. This day the kids were starting a new book that was told from the perspective of a dog. The kids first learned some vocabulary that was going to show up in the first chapter of the book and then they began to read out loud one at a time. After a few pages everyone stopped reading and the kids got a worksheet about the new words they learned. This was where I got to interact with the children on a one on one basis. It was interesting to see what level they were at with reading and writing skills. It was easy to see that they were not at a typical fourth grade level, with many of them misspelling very simple words.
In relation to The Jesuit mission, it is important to serve those in your community who are less fortunate than yourself. In Kolvenbach’s article on Jesuit education, he states, “justice requires action-oriented commitment to the poor with a courageous personal option.” It is important for us in the Loyola community to make a commitment to help out the students of this elementary school because it is part of the Jesuit mission. These children are coming from poor and broken homes and it is our job as educated leaders of our community to assist them to overcome their surroundings and become positive contributors to society.