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Giving Back to the Community Through Reading Corps Service

Ruby in Reading Corps gear

Reading Corps tutor Ruby Wesley is a proud alumna of Minneapolis Public Schools. She’s delighted to be giving back to the district that gave her a great education — and happy that her tutoring experience helped her realize that working with very young children is the right career for her.

Into the woods: I was majoring in theater arts at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities, in the Direct Track to Teaching program that tracks into a teaching license and a master’s degree in education. My plan was to take a gap year after I graduated, then focus on theater education in graduate school.

I was super excited to spend the summer at YMCA Camp Warren up on the Iron Range, where I had been a camper, then a counselor for five years, and was going to be leading the counselor training program as my last hurrah. Then I’d spend the rest of my gap year as a Reading Corps tutor. I joined AmeriCorps after visiting the ServeMinnesota website and looking at all the different programs — I love working with kids, and knew that Reading Corps would be perfect for me.

Change of plans: When camp was cancelled because of the pandemic, that was a huge disappointment. I started serving as a Reading Corps tutor with PreK students at Anishanabe Academy in Minneapolis and was really nervous that the virtual experience was going to be strange — but it was great! We had a very small class; at first it was just me and my lead teacher and two students. Students were able to come back in person in February, but she and I continued working with about 25 kids who were learning virtually.

Having time to think made me realize that I was having second thoughts about the theater education path. I really love working with the littlest kids in Reading Corps — so not long after the school year started, I began looking at early childhood education programs and applied for the one at the University of Minnesota. I start in the fall, and I also plan to return to AmeriCorps service then, hopefully back at Anishanabe with the same lead teacher. But before that, I’ll get to lead counselor training at Camp Warren after all!

Grateful for guidance: Reading Corps led me directly to the path I’m on now. And I’m learning so much from my lead teacher, who’s become a mentor/friend. She wrote one of my letters of recommendation for grad school and went through a similar program at the U. She’s a big reason why I want to return to service next year, and I’m thinking about being her student teacher when that time comes.

Giving back: As a camp counselor, the main demographic of kids I work with is more affluent white kids from the suburbs. That is not who I am. I went to school a few blocks from Anishanabe, and I wouldn’t trade my Minneapolis public school education for any other. My service is about giving back to the community that has served me my whole life, and especially about working with kids who need that special attention.  

Part of a community: AmeriCorps is unlike anything I’ve ever been part of. On some of our group Zoom calls, especially the ones that have a wider reach than Minneapolis or Reading Corps, you can feel the sense of community and feel how far AmeriCorps as a whole is reaching.

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