Igniting a Spark: Jackie’s Volunteer Story

By Jackie Patten, Treehouse Volunteer

During nearly forty years in the field of education, I encountered many students whose lives were filled with hardships, disappointments, hunger, tragedy and sometimes little support from the adults around them. As I grew to know these students, I was amazed with their tenacity, resiliency and ability to carry on under circumstances which would cause many adults to crumble.


Getting Back in the Classroom

After retiring, I decided I wanted to support students who face these unique challenges in some capacity. When I attended a volunteer training at Treehouse and I heard about tutoring opportunities through the Graduation Success program, I knew I had found the place for me. What an amazing program!

The high school student I was matched with struggled with reading but had a great desire to improve, so she asked her Education Specialist to set her up with a tutor. Before I even met her, I knew that she had to be one of those tenacious and resilient teenagers, because so many times when I’ve seen older students struggle with reading, they just give up.

Like I guessed, she was incredibly determined! The more I learned about her life journey, the more my admiration for her grew. She is a strong and capable young woman. Her smile warms your heart.

Making a Breakthrough

When we first started working together, we struggled a bit finding reading material at her level that also sparked her interest. Then, we discovered that we both enjoy poetry. She introduced me to the late rapper and poet, 2pac, and we spent some time reading his poetry. A few weeks later, I saw that she was listening to rap music on a computer before one of our sessions. I asked her about the performer and why he had only one eye. She didn’t know. The next week I brought her an article about the rapper and told her that it explained about his eye. She was quite motivated to read that day! She began asking me to bring her more articles about rap artists, which I did. Our time together became more productive and her excitement about reading increased. She also thought it was quite funny when I told her how impressed my children where with all she had taught me about rappers.

My student still has gaps in her reading skills, but my hope is that our time together has helped her see the value in reading, rekindled her desire to read, and has boosted her confidence. I think this might be the case since she has asked if I would work with her again during this next school year. Of course, my answer was a resounding “yes!”

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About the Author

Jackie Patten recently retired from the field of education where she served as an elementary teacher and principal. In addition to tutoring, she spends her time enjoying moments with her husband, children, grandson and friends. She also sets asides time to hike, row, read, sew and make hand bound books. Life in retirement is as blessed as was her life as an educator.

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