Name: Rachel Peterson
Host Site: The Learning Community
Where did you go to school? Brown University
What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to work toward something I am passionate about in a role in which I feel useful. My passions and skills might shift with time, but as long as I am working toward something I find important with the bulk of my days, I will be happy.
If you could have any super power, what would it be?
The ability to fly
Story of Service:
Last June, I accepted my VISTA assignment at The Learning Community, a nationally recognized K-8 public charter school in Central Falls, Rhode Island because I was excited for a year of growth while doing what I love. I had heard that the Learning Community was a spectacular school and I was ready to learn about the great things they are up to and their approach to grades 6th through 8th.
As I thought about all of the ways I hoped to learn and grow this year, one long term goal weighed on my mind as something still unplanned: I wanted to become proficient in Spanish and to start as soon as possible. It made sense to start learning Spanish this year, too; 75 percent of our school’s families speak Spanish at home so I could have a use for the language right away.
My goal of learning Spanish stayed at the back of my mind from when I signed on in June until The Learning Community’s two week Summer Institute training in mid-August. Finally, I looked up the schedule for Spanish classes at various universities in Providence, found a course which fit my schedule at the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI), ran it through my supervisors, and. . . started learning Spanish!
I am now just starting my second semester of studying Spanish at CCRI, and it is one of the most rewarding parts of my VISTA year. Through studying Spanish, I get to connect my life outside of school to the work I do every day. It is very empowering to know that even while I am not working directly through AmeriCorps I am becoming better able to serve the communities I work with after this year.
I have used Spanish with parents twice so far at The Learning Community: one time, I simply told a family member the room number where she could pick up her child, and a second time I answered a few questions a mother had about the school dance. I was incredibly proud to be able to communicate with her about an event I helped plan!
I am not saying that every VISTA should go out and learn Spanish. But do find that one area where you are yearning to grow and invest some time in it off site. Studying Spanish worked out perfectly for me – I found just the right class times, somewhat efficient bus routes and terrific professors. I even paid for the classes with a previous Segal AmeriCorps Education Award. By connecting my personal life to my service, learning Spanish has helped me make greater sense of my service year and I wish every other AmeriCorps VISTA a similar experience.