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On the Job: America Reads and Counts

Steinhardt+freshman+Oliver+Wang+tutors+at+University+Neighborhood+Middle+School+in+Brooklyn.
Steinhardt freshman Oliver Wang tutors at University Neighborhood Middle School in Brooklyn.

Steinhardt freshman Oliver Wang tutors at University Neighborhood Middle School in Brooklyn.

Corey Rome

Corey Rome

Steinhardt freshman Oliver Wang tutors at University Neighborhood Middle School in Brooklyn.

By Faith Gates, Staff Writer

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Although NYU gives students many different opportunities to earn scholarship money through work study jobs, there is one program that is particularly popular. This organization, America Reads, attracts more than 1,000 volunteers each year.

America Reads is a government-sponsored program where college students go to elementary and middle schools in their city to provide academic assistance in the classroom. This service is provided, cost-free, to approximately 100 schools around New York City. NYU has the largest America Reads program of any university, with undergraduate and graduate students providing close to 10,000 hours of tutoring a week.

Megan Salvato, a senior in the College of Nursing, works at Spruce Street School. She praised the program for the flexibility it provides student volunteers. Volunteers are able to pick how many hours they want to work, when they want to work and what they want to teach.

“It’s good, easy money and the kids are fun,” Salvato said. “It’s a good job for students because you can pick your hours and it’s not super demanding.”

However, this opportunity is more than just a job. For some volunteers, being in class with these kids allows them to learn more about themselves and step outside of their comfort zone. Steinhardt freshman Oliver Wang, who works at University Neighborhood in Brooklyn, loves the job because the work helps the kids as much as it helps him.

“I wanted something that was going to be good for me, that made me mature and grow up,” Wang said. “I realized that I wanted to deal with people in the future, of any age, and immerse myself in different environments. Taking care of children builds up patience.”

Wang loves working with the kids, and he often gets to work with the same ones and develop friendships. He also enjoys the challenge of working with the students who don’t want to be there. He enjoys trying to change their minds by talking and connecting with them, rather than teaching at them.

“I remember coming back to my dorm one night and telling my roommate, ‘Man, these are some of the sauciest people I’ve ever talked to,’” Wang said. “Honestly, it’s so much fun being able to connect with this community, and I get to see it from a completely different perspective.”

Sanayi Robert, a junior in the Tandon School of Engineering, works at William Butler Elementary School and is in her second year with the program. She reinforces this praise for the program and the kids.

“My favorite part is being able to be a good influence in a child’s life, even if just for five minutes,” Robert said.

Although it has its perks, the job can be difficult working with students who aren’t necessarily in the best situation or currently feel the desire to learn. Wang said that he thinks everyone who works chooses it over everything else because they are able to help people and give back to the community.

“I realize that the problem of inequality isn’t just opportunity but support too,” Wang said. “These kids can have every opportunity available, but a lot of the kids that I deal with come from households where their parents won’t pick them up from school, or think it’s a waste of time. Figuring out how to overcome that is challenging but rewarding.”

Email Faith Gates at [email protected]

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