Team Waukegan Weighs in on the AmeriCorps Scholar Coach Experience

Waukegan's four AmeriCorps Scholar Coaches at Cloud Gate ("the Bean") in Chicago.
Today we have a special post: a group interview with the AmeriCorps Scholar Coaches at Waukegan High School. At our WHS program, there are three AmeriCorps SCs who focus on reading and one who splits his time between reading and math:
  • Wujun Ke, University of Chicago ’13 – AmeriCorps Scholar Coach
  • Michelle Keohane, Kalamazoo College ’13 – AmeriCorps Scholar Coach
  • Marty Kezon, Kenyon College ’13 – AmeriCorps Scholar Coach
  • Ronnie Sullivan, Wabash College ’13 – AmeriCorps Math Scholar Coach
They kindly gave us an interview about their experience and what you might expect as an AmeriCorps SC with the Schuler Scholar Program. Thanks, Team WHS!

What do you look forward to most on a day-to-day basis in your job as an AmeriCorps Scholar Coach?

Wujun: I always look forward to Reading Enrichment Programming because I get to discuss good books with bright and motivated high school students. In the process of responding to essential questions or journaling, my Scholars sometimes have flashes of insight that teach me something I hadn’t thought about before. My favorite part of the job is to learn from and alongside my Scholars.

Ronnie: I look forward to spending time with Scholars and other staff members.  Each of the Scholars has his or her own unique set of interests, style of communication and sense of humor, and getting to know them individually has been one of my favorite tasks.  Our staff has a wide range of interests and personalities, too, but we all work well together.  I love that I get to come into work every day and spend time intelligent, hardworking and enthusiastic people.

What has been your most memorable moment as a Scholar Coach so far?

Wujun: My most memorable moment was reading my Scholars’ Family History essays from Freshman STEP. The essays gave me a glimpse of the Scholars’ parents and their struggles to provide a better life for their family in the United States. I was impressed by how much empathy the students had for their parents and how much joy they find in their family.

Marty: One wonderful moment came when a Scholar declared her affection for John Green’s Looking for Alaska. A bit reserved and careful in what she shared, this Scholar had trouble connecting with Green’s novel, partially because she felt so different from the protagonist. Yet when I asked that she journal on the novel’s ending, her response overflowed with feeling.  She had forged a connection with the book and could not wait to put it on the shelf with her other favorites. One goal of reading enrichment is to help Scholars develop a love for literature. While this is far from a simple task, I think we’re doing good work when we can affirm the pull of words and narrative. This particular moment made me remember how it felt to love a book in high school, to reach the final page and cry for an ending that I knew was coming all along. We don’t have this experience each time we pick up a book. But when that connection happens—yes.

Ronnie: My most memorable moment happened at Camp Manito-wish.  My trail group travelled through the Nixon portage – a half-mile stretch of land followed by about a hundred yards of swamp, over which we had to haul all of our canoes and equipment.  We emerged from the portage muddy, tired and mosquito-bitten, and many of the Scholars felt ready to give up.  As we rounded the next bend in the river, the grey swamp suddenly transformed into a field of white wild flowers, with hills and forests rolling in the background.  The Scholars’ attitudes changed in an instant, and they said they had never seen such a beautiful place.  One Scholar said that seeing the field made the whole trek “completely worth it.”  The serene beauty of the field had an effect on me as well, and the memory of the excitement and wonder it produced in the Scholars will remain with me for a lifetime.

Do you feel your time with Schuler has prepared you for your next steps in your professional life?  Why?

Michelle: In the back of my mind, I have always considered a career as an educator, but my school didn’t have a teacher certification program.  Schuler has been a perfect transitional position as I continue to explore my interest in education.  I get to go to work in a high school every day and plan my own curriculum without the pressure of managing a classroom of 30-35 students.

Marty: I’ve always been strangely resistant to the idea of having a “professional life,” but my time with Schuler has helped me consider the goals of my professional life in light of my personal one. Working as a Scholar Coach has allowed me to return consistently to questions like: Who am I as a worker? Who am I as a co-worker? a mentor? an organizer? an improviser? While reflection like this can arise in any environment, Schuler has been my occasion to take a hard look at the work that I can do in this world, both as a professional and as a person. I feel better equipped in my own sense of purpose because of my time here.

Ronnie: Until the spring of my senior year of college, I thought that I wanted to go to medical school.  Now, after working for Schuler for a few months, I know that I made the right decision when I decided to come here instead.  To be honest, I’m not exactly sure what the next step in my professional life will be, but I do know that working as an SC is allowing me to develop skills in organization and communication that will be useful regardless of the career path I choose.


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