Blogs from Victoria Albacete & Sofia Moscovitz Mon, 02 Jan 2017 19:33:33 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Community Voices - Maureen Simen Copy of Maureen SimenMaureen Simen received her BA from Michigan-Flint in English and Social Sciences.  She then pursued a Masters in Reading Education from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan.  She has years of experience in curriculum design and development, as well as educational technology.  Currently, Maureen works at the Bonner Center for Service and Learning as the Coordinator for America Reads.  Outside of work, she enjoys fixing up her house as well as relaxing and reading the classics.  Her love for reading is seen in her job, where she inspires college students involved in the America Reads program to volunteer in many schools around the Oberlin area to promote literacy.

Q. What is the America Reads program?

A. America Reads is a community service work-studies program run out of the Bonners Center for Service and Learning here at Oberlin College. My job as coordinator is to hire, train and place Oberlin College students to be reading tutors in the Oberlin City School District grades pre-K through 8th. We also place tutors at Oberlin Early Childhood center, which is a preschool program, and at the boys and girls club which is an after school program.

Q. How did you get involved in this project?

A. Well, I was looking for a job, and Bo Arbogast, who was the director of the education outreach office here at the Bonners Center for Service and Learning, said that this position was being created. It didn’t exist before as a separate position; it was part of the director’s job.  I was a high school English and government teacher for 10 years, and then I was a private tutor in New Jersey for 7 years. I have a masters degree in reading and writing education, I had experience hosting events for children.  Part of America Reads, the big thing, is Doctor Seuss Day, and we just added stem night along with other literacy events. So it just felt like a perfect fit for what I’ve done in the past and our situation.

Q. Do you have any stories from the project that you’d like to share?

A. I wish tutors were here, they tell the best stories about the kids. The hardest part of my job is that I don’t actually get to work directly with the kids. The tutors are always telling me stories. I really enjoy hearing the stories, how much the tutors are connecting with the kids and how much they’re enjoying working with them. It’s always heartening to hear about tutors who have gone on to teaching programs. Oberlin doesn’t have a teaching program, so you pretty much have to move on to it. I don’t know how pleased Oberlin College would be to hear this, but one of my tutors left Oberlin College to go to another college because she wanted to get a teaching certificate, and that’s a big decision to make.

Q. Who can get involved and how?

A. America Reads is open to Oberlin College students who have work-study and those without. I do place volunteers, primarily in the Langston Middle School. Generally people who apply have worked with children before or have a very positive attitude about reading and want to give back to the community.

Q. How do you think that America Reads promotes social sustainability or community health?

A. The America reads program provides support to the school district and individual teachers. Children are able to receive free one-on-one tutoring that the school district cannot afford, parents cannot afford. We do not tutor outside the school district. We work in conjunction with a classroom teacher or a site supervisor. In addition at our literacy events we give away books, we have crafts, and face painting. We also sustain and hopefully improve college-town relations, as well as providing children the opportunity to have a book that they get to pick out, and they get to keep. We also hope that we sustain the very hard work that teachers do every day to help children learn to read.

Q. What have you enjoyed about working with Bradley?

A. The few chances that I’ve had to observe Bradley in the classroom I’ve been pleased to see the level of engagement that he has with the children. That’s always my top priority with the tutors; are you connecting with the kids even if it’s not one-on-one are you getting into the mix, and I do see him doing that. I’m also appreciative of the fact that he’s open to suggestions and he certainly seems to enjoy being there.

Q. How do you think living here has changed your outlook on the environment and what you can do to be a part of the culture that the town has?

A. This is something that is not part of my job, but it’s something that I feel very strongly about, and that is the preservation of old homes in this town. Our house was built in 1910 and the first workman who came out immediately said, “Oh, you need to rip out these windows and replace them.” I mean, so they’re going to go in a landfill and they’re going to be replaced by a man-made object, and they’re not going to be right for my house because every window in my house was handcrafted for that space, and I’ve seen when they’ve inserted new windows into old houses and that house begins to shift, those windows stay in the same place, and then all those wonderful gasses that give us energy efficiency leak out and they’re not as good. I know there’s a lot of energy saving projects going on around this town, and I don’t want to step on the toes of the people who are doing very good work here, but that is something that I do talk about with people a little bit; ways that you can maintain the character of your home, but still have energy efficiency and have it be environmentally sound. We don’t need more stuff thrown away. We need to find a way to work with the materials that are there. When people throw out vinyl and aluminum siding on these old homes, like, how many more beige houses do we need in this town? There’s a way that you can preserve wood, it’s not cheap, but why’d you buy an old home? So that is something that I do think about a lot, and I do talk about, and I’m researching and reading about old homes so that I can be informed when I am on my soap box about it.


]]> (Victoria Albacete & Sofia Moscovitz) Community Voices Mon, 22 Feb 2016 21:03:16 +0000
Community Voices - Bradley Hamilton Bradley HamiltonBradley Hamilton is a junior at Oberlin College and hails from South Carolina.  He is majoring in Neuroscience and is on both the track and cross country team.  Bradley currently volunteers with the America Reads program and has been involved with college run activities such as STEM night to get Oberlin kids more interested in math and the sciences.  He sees community involvement as a very important and rewarding part of his time at Oberlin College and hopes that others are inspired to get involved in any way they can.

Q. So Bradley, have you seen any of the environmental digital signs at the library, in the public schools, around town, or in the AJLC?

A. Yeah, I actually have a class in the AJLC so I see a lot of environmentally related things. I’ve seen a lot of signs urging me to poop…Today, in my class, there was a big sign on the door that I stopped and read and it says, “WAIT! Have you used the restroom? Because now would be a great time!” And so, yeah, I’ve seen a lot of mostly Living Machine related things.

Q. Have you interacted with any of those Environmental Dashboard signs?

A. Yeah, I’ve poked around at some, but I don’t think it’s clearly evident that they’re touch screen, actually, so I think […] they could use some “Try me!” buttons, but I have seen them, I’ve looked at them, I’ve definitely noticed them…and…would use them.

Q. What words would you use to describe Oberlin?

A. I think I’d say thoughtful? In that what people ultimately do may not be quite so different as other places, but people tend to actually consider what they’re doing more so than…well, I’m from South Carolina, and people don’t tend to consider their actions as much, and certainly not look back on them as much as it happens in Oberlin.

Q. What made you choose Oberlin College?

A. I picked Oberlin largely because it was a small college, that’s how I found it, I guess, because I started my search looking for colleges that were under five thousand. And then it ended up – I didn’t even know what a liberal arts college was – but I found out that I wanted to be a more well-rounded student, so, I picked Oberlin because of that. And then, size…and once I found out that they had a Neuroscience department, which isn’t that common – I’m a neuroscience major – so that was a really big draw for me. And also I run athletics here, I’m on the Track and Cross-Country teams, and the coach and teams were really welcoming.

Q. Many people would describe sustainability as “actions that enhance or maintain economic, environmental, or social welfare of the Oberlin community”. What does that mean to you within and in your life outside of Oberlin?

A. Sure. So when I think about sustainability at Oberlin, I can’t help but think of the Green Edge Fund. I know they do a lot of really awesome projects around campus and a big one they did is, in the freak garbage truck fire accident they had recently, they helped incentivize buying new, more efficient trucks. And they helped with putting solar panels on the new dorm, so I know that they’re available if I have any ideas, I can go share that with them and have them potentially fund it, which…they do have funding, they’re really approachable. Outside of my life at Oberlin, I just…I think it’s about being cognizant, like the small things is really what you can do? Like turning off the water and lights and just thinking about things, really.

Q. Do you think you live differently outside of Oberlin? In terms of sustainability and how much Oberlin makes that a message?

A. I think it’s a very clear message that I’ve picked up on, but I wasn’t that non-sustainable before, I was kind of already pretty into that, which probably a lot of the reason why I work with Oberlin, because I already share a lot of the ideas that they support.

Q. Do you think that America Reads contributes to social sustainability in Oberlin?

A. Yeah! Absolutely! I mean, I couldn’t cite the exact name of what this is called, but there’s some promise that says that all students in the American public education system will be able to read by third grade, and even though I’m working with fourth-graders, literacy is such an undeniably gigantic part of life nowadays. And being able to work one on one with kids is…it’s also not strictly reading, I also work with writing and helping them through whatever problems they’re having, if it’s focusing…so I really think that in the end, building strong literacy skills in all senses of the word absolutely makes you more well-read, more up to date on what’s going on, and better prepared, so I think filling the community with better prepared people is certainly contributing to social sustainability.

Q. Have there been any times where you’ve seen the effects of Oberlin’s sustainability measures and goals that you’ve worked with? Like, do you ever hear them talking about it, like during Ecolympics?

A. Well, I’m involved in a lot of things that are involved with kids on campus, like the Track team and the SAAC, a Student Athlete Advisory Committee; they run something called “Track or Treat” and also there’s tons of things in the…probably the most evident things is in the Science department, where they run STEM night, which is called – I don’t know, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, I guess is what it stands for – and it’s just to encourage or I guess promote the sciences in students who are kind of at risk of not really even graduating high school or going to college. So seeing students leave a meeting, and really care about what went on – I say meeting, it’s more like we do different demonstrations and play fun games that get them interested in things; like I’m a Neuroscience major, so I’ve been involved in going down to the middle schools and just performing…like showing them what a nerve impulse looks like in worms, and like giving them a rope and having us model a neuron, or actually showing them real brains, and we performed evaluations on that to try to quantify if it was actually helping and we saw a marked increase in interest in these things so I really do think that a lot of the community involvement is helping.

Q. Do you think that there’s more stuff that people could do on a daily basis that you see people talking about and not go through with?

A. Well, I know in the dorms, we tend to be pretty wasteful, like lights are always on, I’ve come into bathrooms and kitchens and things are left on, refrigerator doors are wide open, people never turning off their fans or heaters and those are all things that could easily be fixed. But overall I think probably the one that affects the most people’s lives is just, like, lights! It’s so simple but just so many people don’t turn lights off…and that’s part of the reason why the AJLC is so awesome because it’s so much natural light. Yeah, not that I expect more buildings soon from Oberlin but making it easy to make things sustainable is…people tend to be lazy, but when you can help, it always goes a long way.

Q. As far as the tutors go, do you think the kids respond really positively to the tutoring? Or do you think there’s “behind the scenes drama” about who goes to tutoring, etc?

A. Yeah, I actually was worried about that because I’d never been a tutor before; I was a counselor and I’d worked with kids before, but tutoring is a little different. For the large part, I’m in the classrooms, so I go around and – see, I come in in the morning, so I need to help things get started, they have some morning work – so I get to meet all of them, I know all of their names, but when it comes down to time they normally separate into little groups anyway and then it switches off often, so I don’t have one student I work with all the time. Maybe when a kid missed or a kid is struggling with something, I can help catch them up – or one particular example, a student was writing and they just kept getting further and further away from the line where you typically start writing, which is just an interesting problem, and working through was something that was just fun and really helpful to do, so I have a lot of different things, I mean, if people really need to read, catch up with the class, I can take turns reading a page with them, they read out to me, I read to them, and then they get to hear what proper speed and inflection sounds like and then they get to practice and they don’t feel so bogged down.

]]> (Victoria Albacete & Sofia Moscovitz) Community Voices Wed, 28 Oct 2015 15:18:28 +0000