Spring Break 2012 - Atlanta
Howard University > Alternative Spring Break 2013

ASB Volunteers Make Inroads with Students

By Dominique Smiley
Howard University News Service

(March 16, 2013) – Howard University student Maya Williams, one of the university’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) volunteers in Washington, remembers her first impression of Dunbar High School in northwest Washington.
Howard University freshman Sideeq Heard  assists gym teachers in the physical education activity of the day at Elsie Whitelow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School, an elementary school in Washington

“The high school needs some help.” Williams said.

The first things she noticed were the metal detectors at the entrances, which immediately created concern, she said. Walking through the halls, she said she saw numerous pregnant students, another bad omen to her.

The surprises, however, did not stop there.

“The honors classes were the smallest,” she said, “about five kids.   “The average classes had about 20 enrolled, but only four or five would actually show up.”

After speaking with a few of the students, Williams said she realized that the students were easily discouraged and wouldn’t return to class if they didn’t understand the material. To her, the teaching staff had become frustrated and seemed to have given up on many of the students.

Williams said that the students she met were actually very bright.  They just needed an extra push.

“Everyone learns differently,” she said.  “They have the passion to learn.  They just don’t have anyone to give them extra help.”

This year, there were 20 students participating in ASB in Washington.  A small team accompanied Williams to Dunbar every morning.  Sideeq Heard, a freshman acting major, was among the group.

“First, I thought the students were a bunch of hoodlums,” Heard explained. “But then I found that they are really smart, but lack the confidence.  So, I was able to motivate and encourage them.”

Heard and Williams tutored the students in the areas they were most lacking, English and mathematics.

“They knew the lyrics to their favorite song, but if I were to write them down, there’s no guarantee they’d be able to read it.” Williams said.

Williams and Heard, however, found that by working intimately with the students, they could see improvement.

“By Wednesday, we knew what their weaknesses were,” Williams said. “By Friday, they were able to speed through their work as if they had been doing it for months.”

Williams said she believes that it is not that students are necessarily lacking the ability, but that they are lacking the drive as well as the skills to use their knowledge.

“I really hope the stuff we told them sank in.” she said. “Even though we hadn’t been talking to them for a long time, I really hope they were listening.”

Sophomore print journalism major and team leader Tierra Holmes commends students for actively participating in physical education class.
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