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From Learner to Program Developer: A Time Capsule

Let me paint a picture for you: we’re having a conversation and you ask, “how long have you been with Read Write Discover? What do you do?”

I would briefly explain, “I was a Learner, Tutor, Coordinator, Milpitas Branch Program Manager, and will soon be Program Developer. Each role is drastically different but I’ve had experience organizing events, working with families and volunteers, and leading projects.”

You inquire further: “why do you stay with RWD?”

With a smile on my face and gears running through my mind, I would pause, uncertain where to begin.

I want to contribute to the growth of a program that I grew up with; I want to positively impact the lives of others just as leaders before me changed mine. My energy is continually renewed by colleagues that inspire me and learners that excite me.

That’s just a fraction of the larger picture that is my life. However, if you have ten minutes to spare, I’d love to dive into the finer details of this mural. Our interpretations of literature, film, and art change as we go through different phases in life., This is my time capsule that tells a tale of love for learning and growing beyond the books. I hope you find something that resonates with you.

Ten years ago, my mom signed me up for a summer reading program called Read to Succeed. This summer routine continued all throughout elementary school. Admittedly, I had tantrum days in which I protested against going to my tutoring sessions because I didn’t finish my homework or I was in a bad mood. Nevertheless, my mom made sure I showed up.

A good tutor will keep you engaged with fresh and challenging concepts. A memorable

tutor builds rapport and instills confidence in you. I remember the excitement in knowing my tutor was bringing Dum Dums to the next session, the pride in my tutor complimenting my outfits, or the warm fuzzies that flurried within me when my tutor remembered how much I love word-searches and brought some for me to do during our break.

No matter how grumpy I was feeling, I always had fun because of these remarkable tutors. A memorable tutor will make you feel important and inspire you to be a life-long learner.

As I aged out of the program—renamed to Read Write Discover—it was suddenly my turn to be a tutor. Daunted by the responsibilities of setting a learner up for success, I invested hours into researching technical skills and standards, creating detailed lesson plans, and reflecting on what impact I hoped to have on my learner. I tutored 4 young learners who had completely different learning styles. I taught one learner the basics of phonics and sight words, and another how to write short stories. Outside of the literary content, my learners loved princess and Cars stickers, skittles, and coloring. I personalized the learning process as much as possible because learners engage with the material better when it’s fun, and ultimately I wanted my learners to have a positive relationship with reading and writing.

After two years of being a tutor, I was nominated to be a coordinator for the Milpitas Branch. Being a coordinator came with different responsibilities: communicating with parents and librarians, planning big events (family orientation, program sessions, the big activity), pairing tutors and learners, taking attendance, and building rapport with the entire team. Time flew by whenever I worked on RWD projects because I enjoyed the logistics and creative process of fine-tuning the program.

At the end of the summer going into my senior year —just when I feared my time with RWD might be over— our Executive Director, Sarah, offered me a position on the board as a Program Manager. I’ve had the privilege of mentoring three Milpitas coordinators this year who blew me away as I watched them take initiative and exceed expectations.

Not only was being a Program Manager new to me, but RWD faced an unprecedented obstacle of adapting to shelter-in-place orders. Moving virtual felt as if we were entering a foreign country with no maps or guides. But I was excited for the challenge because I knew somehow, someway, we would all make it work.

After piecing together program logistics and developing internal resources for tutors and coordinators, I rekindled a deep passion for event-planning and program development. Thus, in this next stage of both Read Write Disocover’s journey and mine, I will officially fill the role of Program Developer.

RWD has a tried and true path, but it is not rigid nor finite. Every year, new tutors, coordinators, and board members have the freedom to mold the program however they choose. Each year, it’s astounding to observe leaders who are driven and passionate about keeping the program alive—leaders who bridge communities together time after time.

For most activities, organizations, and relationships in life, there comes a point when we recognize it’s our time to move on. As a workaholic, I fall in love with project commitments easily. I seize most opportunities that come my way, and within a few years, I embark on new journeys. But, sometimes, a remarkably special thing comes into our lives and we hold on, giving it our all.

Read Write Discover is different. It’s neither stagnant nor restricting. There’s a sense of comfort in its annual routine, yet it’s always thrilling because you never know what’s next.

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