Illustration of a red apple

Finding life-changing work in a local elementary school

On a warm spring day, right around the time that I had officially declared that I would be a student at Loyola University Maryland come fall, I received a package in the mail stating that I was eligible for federal work study.

I had no idea what kinds of jobs were available for work study, where I would be placed, or what a work study position entailed. Little did I know that my work study job would change my entire career path and lead me to discover what I want to do with my life.

Discovering the right fit

It was October of my first year... a bright, cool fall day, and I had officially started to understand the culture and the campus and feel comfortable at Loyola.

I had been in contact with different offices on campus about work study positions, but it was not until I received an email from the York Road Initiative that I was able to find a good fit. The position involved becoming a partner in area elementary schools and working with and within the local community.

I distinctly remember walking to the York Road Partnership from campus for my interview, sitting at a large brown table and discussing the reasons I wanted to work in a school, my past experiences, and what I hoped to get out of a job such as the one I was applying for. 

Later that week, I received an email that I had gotten a position with York Road Initiative, and I remember being elated and ecstatic that I landed such an amazing opportunity as a first-year student.

Diving in

As soon as I could, I started working at Guilford Elementary/Middle School on York Road. I was a work-study student with the incredible community school coordinator, Ms. Lauren Linn, who works for Strong City Baltimore.

Mural at Guilford Elementary
Mural at Guilford Elementary/Middle School

For the first year at Guilford Elementary/Middle, my responsibilities included assisting Ms. Linn in running different programs both during and after school as well as helping design school newsletters and flyers. As the year progressed, I got more involved and eventually I began to work with the school psychologists on a number of different projects, including the Book In A Bag and Reading Intervention programs.

When I returned to Loyola as a sophomore, I was eager to jump back into my work at Guilford and to seize every opportunity my work-study position presented me.

My work with the school psychologist evolved into my leading Book In A Bag, a program that provides students with two books and some worksheets for each week. The students are encouraged to take the materials home, and the goal is to improve literacy skills and provide resources and opportunities to work independently or with their family members on reading skills.

Book in a Bag packets

In this role, I was charged with organizing and collecting the books each week and providing students with new selections. Since this program serves children in grades Pre-K through 2, I needed to consider reading level, interest, age, curriculum, and ability in each of our book selections.

The Reading Intervention program provides students literacy or phonological awareness skills. This program also serves children in Pre-K through grade 2, and allows the students who struggle with reading, phonological skills, or the alphabet to get more practice. I would personally oversee interventions with three students, as well as serve as “supervisor” for the program, meaning I'd organize and oversee our cart, review the notes taken by volunteers to make sure the students are receiving quality interventions with as much detail as possible, and train volunteers for the program.

Strength of community

My work at Guilford Elementary has taught me that the work of schools goes far beyond what the teachers and administrators do to what every member of the school community contributes to the school. And the involvement of community members is beyond what I could have ever expected.

Becoming a member of the Guilford community has changed my life, my academic path, and my career goals.

It is incredible to see and to realize how many people care about educating children, not just at Guilford, but everywhere; to see firsthand the amount of love and effort that goes into each and every project, both in and outside the classrooms. This is part of the reason why my experience at Guilford and these two initiatives have been, so far, the most influential things that have happened to me during my time at Loyola.

Becoming a member of the Guilford community has changed my life, my academic path, and my career goals. I had thought I would pursue a degree in English at Loyola, but I decided to declare elementary education as my major. Not only did my experience with Guilford make me realize that I want to be a teacher who educates early learners, but it has inspired and moved me to be involved in more than just what happens in my classroom.

And while my job can be challenging at timesthere are obstacles in trying to keep everything organized and flowing properlyit has been the most rewarding piece of my college experience.

There is nothing I love more than getting hugs from first graders I don’t even know, hearing the afternoon announcements, and seeing a student begin to learn his or her alphabet because of my work with the literacy intervention program.

As a teacher, I hope to be able to organize and execute programs like Book In A Bag, programs that give my students every resource I can possibly offer them.

Originally from Port Washington, New York, Alyson studied elementary education at Loyola with a minor in secondary education. Beyond her service in the Baltimore community, she was an active member of Loyola’s Action for Autism and American Sign Language (ASL) Clubs.