In our ongoing series “Beyond YGL,” we learn how alumni of our Youth Global Leadership program are creating positive change locally and globally. This past summer YGL alum Rachel Moline, currently a sophomore at Cornell College, served with Intercambio Uniting Communities as a volunteer English teacher. Thanks to Rachel for taking time to tell us her story!
By its very nature college can be an extremely selfish place. Upon entering, one is forced to take a big step in direction of independence and self sufficiency. In order to ensure that this four year period lives up to the promised “best time of your life” people frantically scramble to sign up for extracurricular activities that will help them make “lifelong friends,” subconsciously expecting their first year to reflect the film Pitch Perfect.
Unfortunately, between Greek life and sports, there is one extracurricular that is sorely underrepresented by the general college student. And that is service. Sure, there are lunch buddies and group wide babysitting events, and for the really dedicated there is alternative spring break. But I have found little that strikes a heart chord and evokes passion.
So I allowed myself one self-centered year to get acquainted with college, to decide who I thought I might want to be, to run my butt off, and to not make service a regular part of my schedule. And I had a fun year. But upon my return home for the summer, I was restless. I couldn’t find a job but I really couldn’t sit around the house anymore. So I went to a small workshop at Intercambio Uniting Communities, a Boulder non-profit organization whose mission is to build understanding, respect and friendship across cultures through educational and intercultural activities. At the workshop I met people who were interested in people beyond themselves, places they had never been before, and things that weren’t tangible. It was so refreshing that I kept going to workshops and was able to become an English teacher for adults in Boulder County.
My class met twice a week for two hours each session, and was comprised of six students, all of whom spoke Spanish as their first language. I was so nervous to try to teach people who were older than me, but after a day of class I realized that these students were so motivated that I could do no wrong, as long as I spoke English. Over the course of two months, my class and I went over daily lessons relevant to the lives of an immigrant in the US in this day and age. In that span I personally learned more about English grammar than I had in my entire previous educational experience. Perhaps more importantly, I also learned about the lives of a demographic that is very underrepresented in my home of Boulder County. The students in my class showed me patience through situations that I know were frustrating and tiring, which is a skill many college students have yet to perfect. My confidence has also increased with the discovery that I have something powerful to share with people who have more life experience than me.
That said, not every moment of class was one of profound self discovery or teaching important and complicated language patterns; we had some fun too. One of my favorite moments in class this summer was when we were talking about slang and what people actually say versus what is grammatically correct. One of the students raised her hand and said: “Rachel, every day when I see my grandson, he says to me, ‘Whaddup, grandma?’ What on earth does that mean?”
Rachel Moline is currently a sophomore at Cornell College, where she anticipates majoring in Chemistry and Spanish and is an integral member of her school’s cross country team.