Official Blog of the Education Exchange Corps

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Final Day of Teach For Ferguson, but First Day of an Expanded Effort

So far I've written about my time working at the Ferguson library. On the last day of the teaching program, that's where I started.

By the 9 AM opening time, the line wasn't just out the door. It was wrapped around the sidewalk along North Florissant. I spent time talking with half-awake kids, excited parents and grandparents, and volunteers who were arriving all smiles.

Since I started on Wednesday, I organized a corps of high school kids in addition to other members of the community to work as volunteers. Together, we kept track of their volunteer hours, and this upcoming week I will either email or deliver an Education Exchange Corps certificate to each one of them documenting the hours they worked. Many high schools and scholarship opportunities require proof of community service. In that vein, we will also be offering these kids advice as they go through the college application process.

We have had so many kids show up that we needed an overflow site (200 kids on the last day!). The Ferguson First Baptist Church stepped up in a big way and provided the children with a wonderful and absolutely HUGE space.
Just one room at the Ferguson First Baptist Church
At about 9:30, I marched down to the church with some of my high school students and a couple other volunteers. We were greeted by Maxine Clark, Chief Executive Bear of Build-A-Bear, and Teach For America staff.

I tried to help however I could, but Teach For America had the church site running like a well-oiled machine. So I got to hang out with the kids! I worked alongside one of our many parent-volunteers for the first few hours.

As I was strolling around the church looking to help, I came upon volunteers from the National Parks Service Old Courthouse site who had been there just about every day. They wanted to run a scripted mock trial, Dred Scott v. Irene Emerson, with the middle and high school students. I was beyond excited! I spent the last two years on Wash U Law's trial team (I'm hanging out in the picture at the top left), three years coaching high school mock trial at Career Academy, and I'm a lawyer!

Our Courtroom at the church
In our trial (which was a bit of a combination of a few Dred and Harriet Scott legal actions for the historians out there), the jury returned an 11-1 verdict granting Dred Scott his freedom. I explained to the students that, in real life, a jury eventually returned the same verdict, but, after the decision was taken up on appeal, the Supreme Court refused to even recognize black people as citizens of America or to give Scott his freedom. The kids had a few questions. Some even wanted to know about becoming a lawyer.

I spent the rest of the day working with much younger kids. I identified one as having special needs, and I stayed with him until his mother picked him up. He had a lot of energy, and my neck is still sore, but we had a great time making up stories about Batman, working on spelling, and finishing a few art projects.

The outpouring of support we received was phenomenal. We had volunteers from far away - including two volunteer teachers I met from Chicago and Virginia - and from all over St. Louis donate their time and energy to giving these kids a great week.

In a last act of selflessness, the Ferguson-Florissant teacher who started this all, Carrie Pace, offered me a ride home. I learned that she is an art teacher, that she has an undying passion for her kids, and that she too hopes more comes of this. Carrie is certainly special, and there are many selfless teachers all over this country who are willing to go above and beyond to care for their kids. I got to meet many of them this week.

Right before she dropped me off, Carrie signed up to volunteer with us. We will be staying in contact over the course of the year to consider plans for next summer.

St. Louis, if this program showed anything, it's that together we can. We are committed to making sure that tomorrow we will. Stay tuned folks!

Elad Gross
President and CEO
Education Exchange Corps

No comments :

Post a Comment