Written by JJ Conlon, AmeriCorps on the Applied Materials Foundation Team at Mathson Institute of Technology

My name is JJ Conlon, I am from Manchester, Vermont and I proudly serve as a Second Year AmeriCorps member with City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley on the Applied Materials Foundation Team at Mathson Institute of Technology.

I serve because an education is one of the most important factors of being able to have choices in an adult life.  Having an education is a right of every child and each student is entitled to the best educational opportunity possible.  A student’s educational attainment should not be dictated by their race, gender, or family/community’s economic standing.

Last school year (my first City Year), I worked with a mixed ELT class of 7th and 8th graders.  One student in my class, Ryan (a 7th grader), was so far behind in math that he had difficulty finishing his math work on his own.  He did not know how to divide numbers and was also unable to multiply without using his fingers (skills that are typically learned in the 3rd grade).  He would spend most of the 3 hours of ELT working on his homework with me or one of my teammates.  Additionally, Ryan was so doubtful of his academic abilities that he very rarely worked on homework when he was by himself or at home.

Outside of academic work, Ryan was very personable and had a great attitude.  He would was very talkative, always had an upbeat attitude, and came to ELT everyday excited.  Ryan had minimal behavioral problems with most of the issues stemming from his inability to work (and stay focused) on his own.

Over the year, Ryan and I worked together (during ELT and the school day as a tutoring student) on his math skills and his confidence.  During the times that we worked together, I would work with Ryan on his classwork, give him information to better understand concepts he should have learned in grades earlier, provide him with strategies for taking math tests, and help him with general school preparedness (such as organizing his backpack).

By the end of the year, Ryan nearly reached the level he should be for 7th grade.  He was able to understand ratios, graphing, exponents, area, perimeter, and much more.  Ryan improved his math knowledge so much that throughout the last couple months of the school year he either knew how to complete most his math homework or was able to use the example questions to determine the proper way to finish his homework.  His confidence, however, was still not where it should be and he was very apprehensive about his own math abilities, which continued to prevent him from finishing his homework by himself.  

This year, Ryan is once again in my ELT class and his start to the year has been unbelievable!  Not only did his math knowledge and ability pick up where he left off at the end of last year, but it improved.  His confidence even had immense improvement and he is now able to confidently complete his homework without asking for help.  Although Ryan may not be at level he should be for the 8th grade, he has drastically closed the gap that used to exist in front of him.

JJ's is one of many inspiring stories among our amazing AmeriCorps team members. When you vote for City Year in the Google Impact Challenge, you're supporting expanded tutoring and mentoring for at-risk kids in East San Jose, helping even more students reach graduation and beyond! Vote now and share CYSJ.VOTE with your social and email networks!

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