Hayden Cooper ’21 Assists in After School Program at Valle Lindo in Walla Walla, WA

Showing up to volunteer at Valle Lindo I had only mentored one on one. What I was stepping into was a whole new world. The students, 25 of them in grades k-5, are condensed into a small classroom after a long day of school. Here they spend about two hours working on their school work, completing packets, and reading. The first couple of weeks were rather stressful to me due to the high speed pace of work that I was unfamiliar with. There was one challenge in particular that stopped me in my tracks. Enacting discipline turned out to not be a strong suit of mine; I happen to shy away from taking on authoritative role. However, the only way to help Mariela Rosas, the leader of this program, keep the kids under control was to start taking things into my own hands. Telling them to be silent was incredibly hard. I didn’t want to break the friendship between us, I wanted to be the fun teacher. Then it came time for me to lead a class project all on my own. We were making cute googly eyed monsters out of construction paper and glue. For this project Mariela stood in a corner and took notes, refusing to step in and silence the kids for me. I was thrown into the deep end and I learned how to take control of a classroom. I put three fingers in the air and waited for silence and at times I even yelled for attention. Surprisingly, I didn’t lose any friends. The art project turned out to be a great success and I had an amazing time watching the creativity of the kids.

Learning to take control of the classroom has served to be a very valuable skill in my regular life. I have more confidence to say no when I don’t want to be a part of something. I’m not as afraid of losing friends when I tell them I’m staying in for the night and I feel more confident that I’m being true to myself when making decisions.

Working under Mariela Rosas at Valle Lindo, I have learned a lot about myself and the outer Walla Walla communities. Valle Lindo has exposed me to families within Walla Walla that I never would have interacted with. Being able to help the funny, smart, and energetic students with their homework might not be much, but it has made me feel like more connected to the surrounding community.

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