By Colin Hanrahan
I moved to Colorado about a year ago from Washington D.C. before joining the Family & Community Engagement (FACE) Education Corps with Denver Public Schools (DPS) and my motivation for coming here was simple – skiing. I enjoyed my time instructing younger students while on the slopes, but had a shift in jobs as the mountain thawed and summer began to make its entrance. I picked up a job building houses, biding my time until the next winter rolled around and I could go back and work in the mountains.
I spent my days this past summer mostly working alone, with the sounds of nails being hammered and wood being sawed. My thoughts continuously drifted back to the community I worked with at the ski mountain and I reflected about the children and people I was working with. These thoughts inevitably led me to ponder about giving back to a larger community and reflecting if there was a larger community I could provide a greater service for. I sent in an AmeriCorps application to the FACE Education Corps program in late September, thinking I may be too late to serve for the 2015-2016 school year. By October, I was in my AmeriCorps uniform in an auditorium with about 30 volunteers and 30 3rd grade students, serving with the FACE Education Corps and with the Power Lunch Reading Program.
Power Lunch is a collaborative between FACE, Mile High United Way, and the DPS Foundation to solicit and provide volunteers from surrounding businesses to be reading buddies to 2nd and 3rd students. My primary role is supporting our schools’ teachers and students and coordinating the many moving parts of the program with our partners. However, my role is truly defined by bringing together the greater Denver community and creating a positive impact in the lives of our youth. I support our volunteers in their efforts to be mentors to our young students and watch as they foster an appreciation for reading and each other.
One of the best things about being in my new role is that I am constantly hearing the progress of students reading with their buddy. It’s exciting to hear the whispers of both children and adults as they wait to find out who their reading buddy is going to be on the first day. The laughter that ensued after a “Would You Rather” activity, when a student named Zamia stated he would rather have jazz hands than happy feet to his buddy Sarah. The countless “good jobs” and expressions of support given to students who methodically pronounced a word that was giving them trouble. These sounds echo in the hallway of all 10 different elementary classrooms that Power Lunch is present in.
It wasn’t long until students started referring to me as the Power Lunch guy; I find this a huge honor as it allows me the opportunity to see continuous student growth and learning. One of my most profound memories I have is when a student named Aaron, who attends Columbian Elementary School, found out his volunteer unfortunately was not going to be able to make it because they were out sick that day. You could hear the disappointment in his voice when he asked, “So who am I going to read with?” The sound of a disappointed child is never a pleasant one, but it made me realize how important this was to Aaron. I squatted down so that I was at eye level with Aaron and asked him, “Do you think I could be your reading buddy today?” He smiled and emphatically said “Sure!” running to retrieve his book.
I am thankful for the FACE Education Corps program and Denver Public Schools for replacing the sounds of nails and saws in my life with the laughter of children, the caring voices of volunteers, and books coming to life. I look forward to hearing more sounds of change in my new role as the Power Lunch guy.
FACE Education Corps member Colin Hanrahan facilitates a class during the Family Literacy Night at Greenlee Elementary