Hello Capstone Students! My name is Jaydra (that’s me in the picture below, 2nd from left) and I completed this Capstone course in 2010. The service learning I did at King K-8 was really the beginning of years of community work for me. Although I had volunteered quite a bit in high school, I had stopped because of the demands of working and going to school at PSU. Although in reality it was difficult to manage my time, I’m grateful that we had to complete the service learning hours. Not only did it get me back in the swing of volunteering, it helped me figure out where my life was going and gave me skills and experience that helped me get work!
After doing my Capstone, I volunteered for a school year at Portland YouthBuilders (http://pybpdx.org/). I went in for 3-4 hours once per week. This was partly a service learning commitment for another class, but I stayed on well beyond those 10 weeks and even after graduating from PSU. I integrated this pretty easily into my life after graduating because I was still working my college job at a pizza shop, still unsure of what my next move would be. It felt awesome to stay connected to social justice work and kept the work I had done in school alive.
At PYB, I found that I loved working with older youth in an alternative school setting. I had been toying with the idea of becoming a teacher for years, but was frankly a little discouraged by everything I had learned about the education system in school. Working there helped me see that being a teacher or working in education didn’t have to mean working in public schools- there were meaningful ways to participate in a variety of organizations and I could find one that worked for me. I absolutely loved the way PYB operated and the staff and students there. Through that experience, I decided to look for paid work in a setting as close to PYB as I could get.
I left PYB when I got a job at SE Works (http://seworks.org/). Knowing I liked working at PYB, I applied for a position with a new pilot project called the Civic Justice Corps. Its goal was to provide education, job readiness, and personal growth programming to help youth offenders stay out of the adult justice system. All I had on my resume was volunteer work from King and PYB but I got the job anyway! And holy crap, you guys, that job was HARD. So many times I felt like I was bailing out a leaky boat with a teaspoon. These kids were tough, their lives were tough, and we were all up against so much. And yet they were so hilarious and bizarre and beautiful and inspiring. Being tough, they could do big things when they put their minds to it- like getting a GED when they came in at a 2nd grade reading level. Focusing on the youth and on the successes, no matter how small, helped me stay motivated to keep doing the work. Building strong supportive relationships with my coworkers and community partners was also a life saver. If you’re doing some draining work right now and feeling burnt, don’t forget to call on those you work with- they can be your greatest resource! I didn’t always do that and fill my own cup, so when the CJC was over I needed a break. So I took about 6 months off from community work to think about where I’d like to go next.
I’m now working as a Resident Services Coordinator for Northwest Housing Alternatives (http://www.nwhousing.org/). The photo below is my team and I. Officially, I provide eviction prevention, resource referrals, and community activities to 6 low-income properties around Portland. Unofficially, I would sum up what I do as helping people solve life’s problems. You have a loose tooth and no dental insurance and no money and you also can’t read? Let’s see if we can figure that out together. You just moved in and you have no furniture, no car, no internet access, no family nearby, and no ability to lift anything over 15 pounds? Let’s figure that out, too. So of course there are big challenges. Some more teaspoon in the boat kind of stuff. But again, it’s the beautiful, inspiring, sometimes bizarre characters that do it for me. I don’t want to so social services forever (again, burn out), but I love being able to work with folks who really need a little help. It also helps me stay in touch with reality- there is really a lot of poverty and hurt and need- and to be able to do my part.
Since I’m trying to step away from social services and get back to education, I am in the process of applying to graduate school to get my Master’s in Teaching at the mid/high school level. I’ve had a hard time finding work in education that paid enough for me to live on, so I’m finally taking the leap into grad school (Scary! Lots of money!). I don’t know exactly where I’ll end up, but I know that getting a Master’s and teaching license is the next right step in my continuing community work.
That was long, sorry guys! I’d like to close with a question for you: What is your greatest fear/anxiety/resistance/barrier to continuing your community work post-Capstone? I’d love it if you guys responded to one another’s posts with creative solutions and encouragement.
Thanks so much for asking me to post, Zapoura, and thank you all for reading! Please please feel free to ask any questions. You can ask them here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep fighting the good fight! You guys are awesome.