More than a Service Year  

Written by Savannah Vidana, 2023-2024 English Literacy First Tutor   

When I applied for this position through AmeriCorps, I was not sure about the next step in my path. I was beyond undecided on whether to put off graduate school for another year and I was disappointed in myself for putting it off in the first place. I felt like a gap year was just setting me back and I could not shake the feeling of some imaginary ticking clock. The future felt like an anxiety-inducing series of decisions to make that would determine my entire life for the rest of time. Of course, it was not really like that at all, but you could not have convinced me otherwise at that point in time. This job as a Literacy First tutor found me and changed so much.  

 I applied on the recommendation of a good friend and after my interview, I felt some of that fear and uncertainty was replaced with excitement. I mulled over committing to the position and talked with every single person I possibly could about it. It was not clear to me then, but it was clear to everyone that I talked to that this was certainly the perfect next step for me. My eyes lit up just at the thought of having the opportunity to have such an impact on the lives of kids through this program. I talked too fast cause I was too excited to slow down. I was already making space for everything that this program is and everything it could bring, and I didn’t even know it.  

Of course, I accepted the position and jumped right into training and then right into benchmarking. Then I jumped into tutoring and every day was something new. There were hard days where my students struggled, and I couldn’t do anything but empathize and be there for them. There were harder days when some of my students convinced themselves that they’d never achieve the goals we set together. But these days all paled in comparison to the overwhelming number of good days—days full of these beautiful little things that added up to an immeasurable experience that I am beyond grateful for.  

Savannah working with one of her kindergarten students on learning letter sounds.

This is more than a service year. It’s more than a position to fill or a way to spend a gap year. It’s so much more than a section on a resume. It’s the way my second graders look at me when I hand them their graduation certificates. It’s the way my kinder student Cam, tells me his ability to read letters and words comes from his secret werewolf powers. And how Daniel never stops trying to make letters out of pens, markers, pencils, and random objects on the desk just so he can show me he knows the sounds all the letters make. It’s the way Raquel couldn’t stop smiling the entire week after she mastered the alphabet and how the letter-sound fluency assessment is her idea of the perfect fun time. It’s the way my first graders went from learning letter sounds at the beginning of the year to blowing through the first few levels of the reading fluency program by the middle of the year. 

It’s the way each of my students has been a firecracker with so much personality and such an impact on my life. They’ve brought so much light and purpose to a year that I was initially so unsure about. This has been one of the most impactful experiences of my life and I could not imagine a gap year could be spent on anything better (not even traveling to dream destinations or backpacking across Europe). There’s nowhere I would rather be than right here at Harris Elementary counting all the littles things that have made my life better for the past 8 months.