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Poems

Thunderstorms
In Flight
Questions
Forced Smiles
Shackles
Recluse
Where
Burn
Winter
Happy Oblivion
Ducking Destiny
Chance of Showers
Chance Encounters
Myopia
The Thinking Dog
Misbehavior
The Race
Flight of the Ostrich
Monster Under My Bed
The Rose Garden
Haiku
Window Shopping
Dramatic Romances
Musings on Nature
A Day at School
The Holy Light
A Rainy Night

Stories

The Roller Coaster
The Purse
Sammy's Lesson
The Legend of the Hungry Dragon
Spirits in the Night

Essays

Essays
My Philosophy of Life
Five Scholarship Questions
Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois
Prophets for God
My Service Project (1999-2000)
My Service Project (1997-1998)
The Beauty of the Forest
Reaching Beyond

Satires
The Pastry Menace
A College Just for You!
The Rights of Plants

Literary Analyses
Saving Harry:  Clearing the Controversy Over Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Essays on Wuthering Heights
The Creature in Frankenstein and the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Edna's Decision in The Awakening
Character Comparison in Kate Chopin's The Awakening
Why The Chosen?

Research Papers
Race, Norms, and the Sidewalk
Analytical Exercise
The Validity of Comparing Governments
The British System: Legal-Rational Or Traditional?
The Importance of Framing
Madison on Factions
Spirituality and the Brain
Sea Water and Conductivity

Speeches
Clinic Violence: A "Moral" Way to Bring About Change?
Graduation Speech
The Call to Relationship
Mark Twain Speaks Again (original version)
Mark Twain Speaks Again (shortened version)

Editorials
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Year 2000
Hunting for Sport?

Articles
Mercury Spill Exercise
Chocolate Feature Exercise
Character Sketch
Reaction Story
Aspiring Actress Profile
"Shark Attack" Exercise
Villa Maria Academy Hosts Diversity Panel

Nonfiction
Coastal Vacation

My Service Project (1997-1998)

This year I set out to make a difference among the people in my community. I have never been involved in many service projects. It has never been required of me before, so I never really took the time to think about it. But this year would be different, I was sure. I would change the world this year. If someone else could do it, why couldn't I? So I came up with a lot of ideas on how to make a difference, but never really put them into practice. The service hours I had to do this year brought out quite clearly one of my less desirable traits: I procrastinate. Therefore, by the time I decided to buckle down and get this done, I knew global change was not happening.

I took up tutoring for my main service project. Maybe that was not a good idea. I am not patient, and in many ways I am not a good teacher. I tend to assume that others automatically understand a concept as well as I do. Still, math did not seem like a difficult thing to teach at the time. It is just playing around with numbers, isn't it? That was my attitude going into my project.

I soon found that this project would be a little more difficult than I had anticipated. It meant giving up a substantial portion of my Sunday to attempt to teach two girls, Amy and Stephanie, the basic math I had not really delved into in years. It became frustrating when at times they could not understand what I was trying to tell them, when I simply could not find the right words to express what I needed to say. I would see them make mistakes, I would correct them, then I would see them make the same mistake again. Also, I was often inaccurate in my own arithmetic. I often hurry through a problem to get it done, not really caring if it is right.

Soon after the initial frustrations, though, we began to settle into a routine. They would tell me what they were learning in math class that week, and I would quickly review in their textbook what I needed to teach that day. I would explain the concept to them as simply as I could, trying to tell them why such a thing was done whenever possible. When I thought they understood it pretty well, I gave them practice problems. If they made a mistake, I would point it out and explain to them the correct way to do the problem. Near the end of our sessions, we would usually play a little math game as a final review.

As time passed, it got even easier to give my tutoring sessions. The girls' math skills improved after a few weeks. They were always eager to learn new things and looked forward to my weekly visit. Soon, their mother began telling me that the girls were now getting good grades in their math class. That had to be a rewarding moment in my service project. I knew then that I was making a difference after all, even if it seemed small.

The Oligeris were not the only ones benefiting from this project. Believe it or not, I have noticed an improvement in my own math skills. I am less likely to overlook something in a math problem now. I am, fortunately, more accurate when it comes to checking the girls' practice problems. Also, I learned that if I tried, I could be a teacher. With practice I have learned to clarify to the girls the concepts they need to learn. I no longer scrawl something on the board, point to it, and ask in a helpless manner, "Well, don't you see?" I can patiently go through the steps of an arithmetic problem and put into words the processes floating around in my head. I learned to accept that people do not learn at the speed of light--including myself. I know now that if it were me in their shoes, I would be a little lost when asked to use the skills I had just learned. I know what a triumph it can be when you finally do understand and proudly show your tutor the "A" that you got on your last math test. It made me so happy when I found out that what I was doing for these girls actually did make a difference in their lives. I felt proud that I could help. Maybe prouder than I would have been had I made a radical change in the world.

My experience with the Oligeris helped me on my other service projects this year. I made sure to put some effort into these works, so they would turn out as well. I have done other volunteer work in the past, too: walks for a couple of causes and even a rocking-chair marathon. Still, my time with Stephanie and Amy had to have been my most rewarding project. I actually got involved with this project, working toward a goal that required more than a few hours to reach. I did not do this project for the fun of it, like the others. I would not say we did not have any fun, but more important than that, working on this project helped me learn some things about what I could do to help other people. I think that knowledge is the most valuable of all the things that I got out of this project.


Copyright © 2002 Colleen Fischer | Last updated October 7, 2002