A firsthand perspective

June 25, 2012

In February, I was sitting in dorm at Northeastern considering the perennial question facing college freshmen: what should I do during my first college summer? Travel, beach days, and getting to all those unfinished books on my shelf were immediately on the list, but I also wanted to do something meaningful, to put my energy to good use somewhere.

One of the most significant experiences I’ve had as a freshman this past year at Northeastern has been my work with Generation Citizen. I was a Mentor for an eighth-grade class in Malden this fall, and for a class of high school seniors in Brighton this spring. As any Mentor will tell you, working with these students has been so incredibly rewarding. All those early morning classes were worth it in the moments when I realized that may students were really getting it. When they suddenly realized that they did want to make a difference in their communities, and I was there to illuminate and lead them down the path to doing so.

Not only did GC enable me to empower these students, it led me to many of the things I think a first year of college should involve. I made friends with a range of Northeastern students through our amazing GC campus chapter, which helped me to feel connected to the university community beyond just the people on my floor in my freshman dorm. I also got to know parts of Boston that I otherwise may never have explored. I can’t say that I would have ventured to the northern end of the Orange Line at 7 AM if it hadn’t been for GC, but I’m so glad to have seen these communities that exist only a 30-minute T ride away but where many Northeastern students would never think to go. Additionally, I developed greater confidence and better poise in my teaching and leadership. I think if you can hold the attention of 25 high school seniors and convince them that civics is important, you can command any room.

So when I was sitting in my dorm in February dreaming of summer and deciding how to spend my time, it didn’t take me long to realize that I wanted to continue working with GC. A few months later, here I am, working as an intern in GC’s Boston office.

As a Mentor, I would naturally notice things as I taught that I felt could be improved—this lesson didn’t really engage my students, that activity didn’t seem grade-level appropriate, this action-planning strategy wasn’t explained well enough. The GC team has constantly solicited this type of feedback, and encouraged me to use my experiences to inform my work. My first task of the summer was to organize all of the feedback and data we’ve received over the last semester into a more useable format, something that could be an easy reference for other staff members. It was interesting to read what other Mentors and teachers have said and think about how it matched my own experiences (or didn’t). I then organized this information around various areas of concern, providing analysis by synthesizing the feedback and drawing on my own experiences. As I work on more narrow topics, from school recruitment to curriculum development, my observations from Mentoring enable me to make better suggestions for improvements and point out what I know doesn’t work from experience.

I hope that I’m bringing a fresh perspective to GC this summer, and I’m excited about the work I’m doing because I’ve seen firsthand how the choices we make about our program have a direct impact on students. The GC team is continuously striving to improve, and I’m grateful to have found another way that I can help strengthen such a valuable and impactful organization. 

~Elise LeCrone, Mentor at Northeastern University in Boston and Summer GC Program Intern

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