To kick off a month-long spotlight on our fantastic Reading Corps Alumni, former PreK Tutor Alyson Becker shares about her transition from Reading Corps service to a graduate program for Social Work.
My Post-Reading Corps Life: An Open Letter to Current Tutors from an Alumna
Hey, everyone! My name is Alyson, and I was a PreK Reading Corps tutor last year at Patrick Henry Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia (and I miss my students every day!). This August, I made the transition into graduate school at the University of Maryland School of Social Work located in downtown Baltimore. As a component of my program, I also received a field placement in Lanham, Maryland at DuVal High School where I intern with Pathways Schools, a program dedicated to serving adolescents with emotional disabilities.
I can honestly say that my time as a Reading Corps tutor really inspired me to pursue a career in social work. Prior to serving with AmeriCorps, I didn’t have much direct service experience. Sure, I had done a few hours here and there in high school, but never had I dedicated an entire year of my life to service! After I became a Reading Corps tutor, went through training, and began working alongside my eager and excitable 3 and 4 year olds, I realized that I had a passion for this type of direct service work; I wanted to make this into something lifelong and take it to the next level. I found that as a social worker, I would be able to serve on-the-ground with individuals in the community, just like I had been doing with Reading Corps.
When I began applying to grad school, I discovered that my service at Patrick Henry provided me with much to share about myself and the work I wanted to do. One of the big questions in my personal statement prompted me to discuss an American social issue that I was passionate about; what better way to illustrate my service with Reading Corps?! Moreover, Reading Corps is a program specifically founded in proven intervention strategies, and no matter what type of graduate program you apply to, being involved in research is never a bad thing. Reading Corps provides an intricate and personal understanding of research assessments, data collection, and data visualization and analysis. I’m taking a social research class this semester, and I already have a very good understanding of social research components due to my time as a Reading Corps tutor. You’d be surprised how many people don’t know what integrity can look like in social research settings, and this is something that’s reality for Reading Corps tutors. During my time as a tutor, I also gained tremendous experience working with both individuals and groups, strategies for communicating effectively with children, and a firsthand understanding of the achievement gap present in our nation’s schools. I have found that a background as a Reading Corps tutor translates seamlessly into a foundation for either clinical or macro social work. As for me, I hope to continue working directly with children in the field of either adoption, foster care, or international social work.
Regarding the search for grad school and the ensuing application, I would suggest just getting yourself out there. I know it’s cliché but there are so many opportunities to go to grad school fairs and speak about your experiences and goals face-to-face with admissions officers. In October of last year, I attended the Idealist Grad Fair, and I was a bit intimidated by the rows and rows of schools present. However, this is where I first spoke with the admissions officer for the program I am in now, and we discussed my Reading Corps experience at length. She was very interested in hearing about my time as a tutor, and she encouraged me to move forward in the application process. Be your own advocate. You are getting exceptional, unique experience serving as a Reading Corps tutor, and graduate schools take notice of this level of commitment and want to learn more about you and your service.
On a final note, enjoy the rest of your year (or more) as a Reading Corps tutor, and best of luck with whichever path you choose following your term of service. It really is an extraordinary opportunity for both personal and professional growth. Plus, the kids make it all worth it!