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Kids, Authors Flood Campus

CCES - Kids on Campus 2012

Photo by Patrick Bradley.

Last Friday – just as AU students were ending classes for the semester – local youth flooded the university for its annual Kids on Campus Day. For those young students who attended, it was a way to close out months of solid afterschool studying with the DC Reads program.

Jordan Misra, AU alumna and AmeriCorps Vista staff member in the Center for Community Engagement & Service, helped organize DC Reads during the past year before co-coordinating the kids’ campus visit.

“It’s a celebration for them,” she explains. “DC Reads can be tough. It’s long hours. These students, whether by their parents’ choice or theirs, have put in a lot of hard work and effort to get through this year, bring their grades up, and make an impact in their community.”

Since 1996, AU’s DC Reads program has affected literacy across the District of Columbia. Currently, it reaches some 650 local children by sending over 100 AU student tutors to teach reading, writing, and math in communities throughout DC. Each tutor commits six hours per week to afternoon academic support at local schools, community centers, and homeless shelters. Each year, DC Reads logs thousands of quality service hours with the students it reaches.

School of Communication freshman Jack Kernochan started tutoring at Life Pieces to Masterpieces – a youth empowerment program in Capitol Heights – this semester. He appreciates the academic aspect of the work, but he’s enjoyed the program for the opportunity it provides AU students to act as mentors.

“It’s outstanding because you’re really able to see the change you make in the kids’ lives as just being a positive role model for them,” he says. “Honestly, sometimes I feel like I’m having more fun than they are. They’re great kids.”

Kids on Campus Day hosted over 100 area youth and 40 tutors for several activities, which ranged from a campus tour to dinner at the Terrace Dining Room. Local authors Paula Shelton and Tony Medina read from their material and engaged with students on the power and importance of literacy, education, and perseverance. The authors also presented each student with a copy of the book they read from.

Aside from the benefits of the author sessions, Misra also sees the importance of simply bringing young students to campus.

“We can send the message all the time, ‘Go to college. Go to college,’” she says. “Until you actually see what a campus is like, until you’re around people that are pursuing their passions, it doesn’t hit you head on. This is a day to show kids what a college campus is like and show them where their tutors are coming from, which is important.”

Elyse Preston, a freshman in the School of Public Affairs and first-semester DC Reads tutor, saw that sort of impact resonate with a student during the event. When paired up with a 14-year-old boy from her worksite, Community of Hope, Preston noticed the excitement and interest generated by being at a university.

“He had really specific questions about school, what college was like, and what the process of getting into college was all about. Before we came into the session with the author, he said that he really likes this school and could see himself coming here one day,” she shares. “I don’t think he had been on a college campus before.”

Misra believes the event highlights how the university empowers its students to go into the community and empower others. AU is an institution that challenges its students to better themselves and the community they live in. At the end of Kids on Campus Day, Misra’s biggest hope is that the DC Reads youth also hear the university’s call to excellence and service.

“AU, as a university, is a hub for knowledge and passionate individuals. This program shows that they’re willing to bring those strengths to the community,” she says. “I hope the students take away the message that, with a lot hard work, they can be anything they want to be. They’re around tutors from all different backgrounds and places. I hope they see that hard work can take them places.”