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Bailey served at Harrison during the school year through ICAP (Iowa College AmeriCorps Program) and was a fantastic contribution to the Kids on Course team. Her dedication to service, compassion and cheerful personality will be missed, but we wish her all the best as she studies in Iceland and interns in Des Moines, Iowa this summer. A reflection on her time at Harrison:

Last fall, I started off my sophomore year at Coe College volunteering at Harrison Elementary School’s Kids on Course program through the Iowa College AmeriCorps Program. I was to complete 300 volunteer hours by the end of the school year, and when I first begin attending Harrison, all I could think about was the daunting task ahead of me. 300 hours seemed like an incredible amount of time in addition to all of the other activities I was involved in at school, on top of attending class and homework. My time at the school began as just a way to fulfill my hours, but it quickly turned into an experience that I would never give back. Throughout my time volunteering with Kids on Course, I have learned an incredible amount, not only about the program itself and the effort it takes to wrangle large groups of energized kids, but also about myself and the kind of person I aspire to be.

First and foremost, I want to recognize Kids on Course for teaching me to be patient and calm. It is so easy lose your cool when you are charge of a group of rambunctious kids who do not want to listen to you talk about appreciation jars and instead would rather run around screaming and hiding under the cafeteria tables. As a college student, it is especially easy for me to be so caught up in my hectic life and get extremely stressed out, and so it was quite the learning experience to try and be patient with the kids when they were driving me crazy. But by working with these kids every day, I learned how to control the overwhelming panic I used to feel when no one was listening to me and to just relax because everything would be fine. Eventually I realized that the kids just wanted to have fun and that it was okay for them to be a little crazy, and I am truly grateful for my newfound ability to chill out, go with the flow, and enjoy myself in the process.

Though I had so much fun hanging out with the kids every afternoon, it was not always easy. One of the biggest challenges I faced was coming to terms with the fact that no matter how enthusiastic I was about something, I just couldn’t force the kids to be interested in everything I wanted to share with them. I have found that kids can be extremely compassionate and kind, and I admired that so much in them, but sometimes they just didn’t want to do what we needed to do, and I had to adjust my expectations for them and myself. I realized soon in my volunteering that I had been removed from young children for quite a while, and at points I forgot that they weren’t little adults. It was often challenging for me to remember that we needed to just have fun and try to learn in the process, and I struggled to find this balance at first. However, I am thankful to all of the kids I worked with who reminded me what it was like to be carefree and to remember to find the fun in life at all times.

One thing that I did not expect when I started volunteering was the emotion that I would feel right along with the kids on a daily basis. There was intense sadness when someone felt left out or as if they were not good enough at something to participate, and my heart broke whenever I saw tears running down one of their small faces. It was so hard to watch them struggle, whether it was trying to complete a puzzle or losing a game the other kids were so good at, and I found myself just wanted to hug them all and let them know that they didn’t need to be good at this one thing to be happy or successful. I remembered what it was like to feel like the world was ending because someone called me a name or I was the slowest runner in the gym, and my heart went out to all of the kids feeling as though they were not good enough.

But at the same time, there were also moments of joy that I will treasure forever. I will never forget what it’s like to have a group of kids hug me and tell me how much they’re going to miss me when class is over, practically bringing me to tears. I will always remember the expressions on their faces when they completed a project and knew they had done a good job. There were so many moments when I was so proud of them and what they had accomplished, and I am so happy that I was given the chance to get to know them and see the world through the eyes of an elementary school student again.

All in all, I would absolutely recommend this experience to anyone who loves doing volunteer work and helping kids explore different passions. I have no idea when I am ever going to get the chance to be part of a garden club, cooking club, service club, coding class, dance class, taekwondo class, soccer, baseball, theater club, and more all at the same time, and I can easily say that it was an experience of a lifetime. Thank you to AmeriCorps and Coe College for giving me this opportunity, and a special thank you to Hannah, Tyler, Rachel, and Becky for being incredible role models and incredibly kind, generous, open-hearted people. I can only hope that I will be as wonderful as you all are someday. Thanks for this amazing year and for letting me be a part of what you do; it will stay with me forever and I hope to continue to grow as much as I did with Kids On Course.