Morghan Vélez Young-Alfaro

 

BA in Anthropology and minor in Women’s Studies, Class of 2005

What is your most memorable service experience?

When serving at Head Start Wesley, we had a team of four Corps Members and I was paired with a little girl to focus on literacy and social development for the year. My partner child was especially timid; it was a great experience for me to work with her because she gave me a lot of practice with patience and awareness with even seemingly small things like getting her to sit with me. Her mother was a resource, encouraging our relationship and even sharing with me that the little girl was a foster child. This extra layer to her identity put her timidness in a different context – no wonder she might have a challenge with connecting to a new adult. From time to time in working with this little girl, I made it a point to put the Jumpstart curriculum that we were implementing on the backburner while focusing on developing my relationship with the child through play and conversation.

What impact did you make?

Literacy development among children in low-income neighborhoods is linked to successful trajectories in education, health, and workforce. It is vital that literacy competency is reached by all children, but especially those who face systemic educational and health barriers that create lifelong disadvantages for them. The design of Jumpstart, brining college students into low income neighborhoods to support young children with literacy, is a high impact strategy. I know that my team’s efforts moved the dial in a positive way for the children that we served for that year.

How did this service impact you?

I was not a great student in high school and most of my experiences were circumscribed by being ignored by the adults around me. Being a Team Leader in Jumpstart was the first time someone else selected me and put me in a leadership role. As a Team Leader, I found I was good at it, I liked it, and others saw me as being good at it. It was an important opportunity to develop my leadership skills, collaborative mindset, and administrative know-how. Jumpstart linked me to thinking, for the first time, what a professional career could look like for me and seeing a path for myself into the professional world. This opportunity gave me insight that I was worthy of leadership and I was able to build a vision for myself – both are key to building up self-esteem and identity. Without Jumpstart, I am not sure what my trajectory would have looked like or how long it would take me to get to the solid state that I am in today.
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