Tess Carges ’20 ensures children of underserved communities reach their reading goals over the summer with 21st Century Community Learning Centers at Sharpstein Elementary School in Walla Walla, WA

Hi there! My name is Tess Carges and I am a rising senior at Whitman. This summer I am working at Sharpstein Elementary School in Walla Walla with 21st Century Community Learning Centers! Basically, it’s summer school for little kiddos, heavily disguised as a fun day-camp. My job is teaching art! Being an English major though, I like to put in a sprinkle reading each week along with some writing exercises. The kids range from first to fifth grade, and from all over Walla Walla. The program is aimed at low income, underserved students and our goal is maintaining student growth and development during the summer months—sometimes kids just forget to read for three months so we staff are the preachers of reading.

The program has four rotations: art, STEM, sports, and theater. Each week, I get a new batch of kids and start my four-day syllabus all over again. I created my own syllabus for art with the help and advice of my coworkers. Mondays are for notebook making and oil drawings, Tuesdays are collage day in which we create awesome self-portraits from magazines and scraps, Wednesday’s are Shel Silverstein day (my favorite) where we read and make our own goofy poems and doodles inspired by Shel, and on Thursday we take a field trip to Whitman and go on our sculpture walk (the kids’ favorite).

This is my first experience being called “teacher” and it feels wonderful. I carry around a walkie-talkie, I write on the white-boards, I constantly tell kids not to run in the halls, and truthfully it’s a lot of power for one college student. I’d like to think my ego never becomes quite too inflated though because I am always learning from the kiddos, in other words, outsmarted. They are so smart and creative and they give me great ideas for how my syllabus can be more engaging and fun. I’ve also become way more adaptable; with kids, both schedules and flexibility are super important, it’s the tightrope walk between them that I’m still learning.

I am currently at the halfway point in the program with three weeks left to go. Each new group of students has provided a new challenge and a new reward. The younger students are sweet and excited but have zero attention span whereas the older kids can focus and follow directions really well but have also had time to master the art of disruption and chaos. Being engaging, kind, and supportive are always my top priorities. If we didn’t get to every project but the kids had fun and treated one another with respect, that’s a good day.

One of the biggest rewards of this internship is connecting with the Walla Walla Community: meeting parents, attempting my Spanish with the kids, hearing about their day-to-day life, and watching them grow. I love this internship, I love teaching the same kid to make the same bracelet every day, I love hearing about every mosquito bite they’ve ever had, and I love seeing their eyes light up at the shocking end of a Shel Silverstein poem. I hope to keep learning and developing my techniques as a teacher.

Experiences like Tess Carges’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Mitzy Rodriguez

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