Serving Others for Spring Break
Serving Others for Spring Break
In this article, Boston College sophomores Megan Zink and Thomas Steichen who participated, in this year's Deloitte's alternative spring break program "Maximum Impact" in Memphis, Tenn.,talk about their experience visiting local middle schools and high schools motivating students to continue on a path to higher education. Check it out!
CAMPAIGN: Talent Initiatives at Deloitte
Sophomores Megan Zink and Thomas Steichen went to Memphis, Tenn., to participate in Deloitte’s alternative spring break program, “Maximum Impact.” In partnership with United Way and Teach For America, the program brings together undergraduates from all over the country to work side-by-side with Deloitte professionals, who engage them in volunteer activities to motivate underserved youth to follow a path to college and career success. The participants visited two elementary schools, a middle school and a high school, performing a variety of tasks — from touching up a school garden to organizing storage closets to painting conference rooms — and also visiting with the schoolchildren.
Zink: At Memphis College Prep, we did a lot of little things, such as making copies and stapling books for the students to read. I didn't think that what we were doing was making that big of a difference, but the entire staff was so thankful to have us there. The school's principal told us that he was so thankful to have us because at Memphis College Prep they "sweat the small stuff", because that's the stuff that makes a big difference.
The second day we visited Kingsbury Middle School. We were matched with a teacher for the day and got to work one-on-one with the kids. We also were able to eat lunch with the students and talk to them about their school and experiences. After lunch, we visited a few classrooms to facilitate college Q&A sessions. It was amazing to see that some kids did not even know what college was, or did not think it was possible for them to go anywhere beyond their city of Memphis. The college Q&A sessions were my favorite part of the entire trip, because it felt as if we were showing these kids a world of opportunity that they didn't even know existed before.
On our final day we visited Frayser High School. This was the hardest school for me to see because it so greatly contrasted with my own high school. The educational inequity that I had heard about throughout this trip came became a reality before my eyes as I walked through those doors. We did smaller projects at Frayser, like we had the first day, and my group painted the school's conference room for the first half of the day. We also were able to have lunch with the students and facilitated more college Q&A sessions. It was hard for me to see how enthusiastic these students were about attending college. Every single one of them wants to go to college and has such a strong desire to do something beyond the four walls of their high school, but they just don't know how to make this dream a reality and don't know if it was even possible. The resources are not there for them in the same way that they were for me.
Overall, this trip really opened my eyes to the problems with our country's educational system. It makes me so sad to think that a child is not given the opportunity of a meaningful education just because of the situation or place that they are born into. I am in love with Boston College. I have been given so many opportunities here and have grown so much because of the people I've met and the education I have received. I hate that all children cannot have this same opportunity and I know that something can be done about it.
From spending four short days in Memphis, I could already see the work being done to close the education gap. Teach for America has done amazing things both inside and outside of the classroom. Even if Teach for America does not end up being the right fit for me, I know that I cannot go back to my life without doing something about the education inequity in our country. The program was an amazing experience and opportunity that I feel has changed the way I see not only the lives of others, but also my own.
Steichen: The balance between improving the school grounds and interacting with students was intentional, as we wanted to give students a sense of pride in their school while also getting to share our skills and stories. It was sad to see so many students with the mindset that college was not in their future. With the exception of the students at the charter school, most of them did not see college as even a possibility. A main mission of our trip was to encourage students to view going to college as a goal they could make reality. We wanted to help students realize their potential and to see that there is a world outside of Memphis.
The main thing I gained from the trip was a new perspective on the challenges of the United States’ public education system. Students struggle to succeed when forced to attend schools with subpar learning environments.
Interacting with the students that attend some of the lowest ranked schools in the nation was very moving, as they are the ones caught in these undesirable situations setting them up for failure. Many of the students I met truly wanted to learn and to succeed, but are faced with obstacles I never faced while growing up. I met a 6th grade girl who was embarrassed that she could not read even basic sight words and a high school sophomore who was bullied for trying too hard in school. Both said that they would continue to try their best despite the lack of support they received at home and in the classroom.