Southwest HS students made a difference in Washington DC

Members of the Southwest High School Marketing Co-op class and DECA traveled to Washington, D.C. March 3-6, 2010 with a mission: to help a school build a library. The mission turned into tutoring; the tutoring turned into mentoring; and the mentoring turned into relationships.  Southwest students left an imprint at Charles Hart Middle School in the heart of Washington, DC.

Caryn Voskuil, a 2005 graduate of Southwest High School, is currently teaching at Charles Hart Middle School through the Teach for America program.  Caryn shared with Micki Volk (Southwest HS marketing teacher & DECA advisor) that her school currently does not have a library, she lacks basic teaching materials, and the students have very few school supplies.

The marketing students designed a $20 drive to help raise funds for the items that Caryn requested: paperback books, educational workbooks, CD players for audio books, bookshelves, classroom motivational tools, and school supplies. 

Once in D.C., the students took a metro and bus ride, went through the school metal detectors, and took a brief tour of the school. Finally, the Southwest students met the Charles Hart students.  The plan was for Southwest students to provide one-on-one tutoring as the middle school students went through the six-step writing process, with the end goal of writing the READ 180 scholarship essay.  The topic for the essay was “How Read 180 has made me a better reader.” It was most impressive to watch the Southwest students tutor and mentor the struggling 7th graders, and heartwarming to observe the compassion that was shown.

 The Southwest students treated each class to catered lunches, and spent time playing basketball and perfecting their dance moves. In addition, five Charles Hart students that showed improvement were invited to a special dinner with Southwest students.

When asked what was surprising about the experience, one student said “The lives that these kids live and how hardened they have become by it already. I’m not sure I could have ever imagined what they go through without experiencing what we did and hearing it from their own mouths.”

Caryn Voskuil sent this email after the visit. 

“I feel this visit has been a break-through for several students, including Napoleon and Kyree whom so far this year I have been unable to really bond. These kids have home lives that we cannot fathom, and challenges that kids should never have to face. The adults and males in their lives in particular have taught them to be guarded and not trusting of other adults. When they were with the Southwest students I saw the child side of them for the first time. The way they acted away from their peers, and in the presence of the high school students was so shockingly refreshing to me!”

Thank you to the many contributors that helped by providing financial contributions to this literacy campaign.  Without the support of Southwest parents and staff, alumni, and the Green Bay community, we would not have been able to provide the resources to the students at Charles Hart Middle School.  The success of this project has changed lives, both in Washington D.C. and in Green Bay, WI.

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