Service Learning Project

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Service Learning Project

            This semester I am enrolled in social psychology, which is a service learning class. Prior to the completion of this class, I am required to choose a service site and spend at least 20 hours at that service site. The service site that I chose was Chastang Middle School. The students and staff at Chastang are predominantly African-American. Chastang is located in a lower class neighborhood. Many of the children who attend Chastang do not have a positive role model and are also surrounded by negativity at home. I attended Chastang Middle School, and the fact that I attended Chastang hugely contributed to me choosing it as a site. I can relate to these children on a personal level. I did not have a role model growing up, nor did I have parents. I was raised by my lower income-class grandparents and I was surrounded by negativity.

            The first few days at my service site were pretty rough. I do not have any experience with children in an educational setting, so I was having difficulties getting the children to listen to me. Being able to analyze humans is what I want to be able to do upon getting my bachelors.  I decided to approach this situation from a psychological aspect. I thought to myself, “I have to get these kids to want to listen to me”. The solution that I came up with is letting the children play games on my iPad in return for reading, doing math problems, and doing their homework.  Initially, this was going pretty well, but after a few visits, all the children was interested in doing was playing games. I could have easily had that authoritarian attitude, but I am a leader; I prefer people that want to listen to me verses those who have to.

            I am aware of the children’s culture, like I mentioned before I attended Chastang and I am originally from the area. I understand what these children are going through both at school and at home. Some of these children go to school and get bullied. They are bullied either because of the way they look, dress, act, the type of grades they make, or the amount of income their parents make. The reason these children get bullied are absurd.  I had a conversation with one child, who said he is constantly bullied. The young man who I spoke with has a learning disability, but he is rational. He was under the impression that he had to fight his bullies to make them stop. I explained to him why fighting is never the answer, and the best way to get rid of a bully is not entertain their bullying. The young man has aspirations, but he just need someone long term in his life to guide him. I understand what he is going through. He is not a negative young man, he is just oblivious and inexperience on how to react in certain situations. Majority of these children have no one to turn to for advice. I personally think that this service learning assignment should also consist of a big-brother/big-sister type program. These children need someone who is constantly in their life, someone who they can build a relationship with.

            There is not much diversity at Chastang, so these children do not differ from me much. Almost a decade ago, I was sitting in the exact same classrooms that they are sitting in today.  I feel like I can relate to every single one of these kids in some way, and if I cannot someone that I grew up with can.  I feel like these kids need more opportunity.  If we as a community can help these underprivileged kids they would be more likely to succeed in the future.   

            One thing that I learned about myself, is that I like to help influence people in a positive way.  I also need to work on my social skills with kids. I want to be able to effectively influence children one day, and to do I need to learn how to relate and communicate with them on their level.

            I met some interesting children at Chastang. One of the kids who I mentored for a couple of weeks told me that he was not interested in doing his homework at tutoring. He was just interested in playing Mind-craft on his cell phone. He mentioned that he did not have service on his phone, and he did not have internet access at home after I asked him “why”. I understand that the purpose of tutoring is to complete homework, but I was also empathetic towards this young man. This situation was tough for me. I wanted to let him play his game, but if I allowed him to play his game it would defeat my purpose as his mentor. Another interesting young man that I met told me that he has been working very hard so he can get into a good college, but because of his disability he did not think that he will be accepted. I explained to him that a disability is only a disability if someone allows it to be and through perseverance anything is possible. I think I motivated this young man a lot. Especially after I told him that I have a potential disability myself I told him that I have a speech impediment, and told him how much I have achieved with my speech impediment.

            In conclusion, I would like to say that I really enjoyed my time at Chastang.  It was tough getting the children to do their homework and assignments.  I learned more about my own background seeing it from a perspective of a young adult. As a child, I had the same mindset as these children, but as an adult I think it is time for change. I think a big-brother/big-sister program would provide the mentorship that these middle school kids need to succeed in life. These kids do not have role models to look up to, and a big-brother/big-sister program could have a huge impact. I am not any different from any of those kids at Chastang, and I could have been influence by the wrong individual like many of the underprivileged kids are. I want to help people, especially children. Our society as a whole has plenty of misfits who are victims of circumstance. I know that I did not have a tremendous impact on these children, but I do think I made a bit of a difference during my time there.