Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Reaching new heights

Last week Kate and Jim, Academy of Hope volunteers, took their reading class on a special behind-the-scenes tour of the Capitol. Kate wrote about this experience in her own words.

 I work on Capitol Hill.  Of the hundreds of Capitol tours I have given over the years, none have meant more to me than the one I gave to Diane, Sharon and Charles.

At the beginning of the term, we set a goal to read an entire book cover to cover—an accomplishment some of our students had yet to achieve in their lives.  For the past 14 weeks, we have been reading together "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry," a story about post-slavery racism and discrimination.  All of our students shared stories of their ancestors being slaves, their perceptions of racism today and how they can face their own struggles with courage and hope.

We finished the book two weeks ago and to celebrate this monumental achievement, I took them on a tour of the Capitol—a place they had never visited even though all three of them were born and raised here in DC.

I took them to the Old Supreme Court Chamber where the Dred Scott case was argued and handed down.  I took them to the Old Senate Chamber where Senator Charles Sumner was caned, and where most of the slavery debates prior to the Civil War took place.  And finally I took them to see the new statue of Rosa Parks in Statuary Hall.  My eyes watered as they talked about what freedom in our country means to them.

People sometimes ask me how I make time each week to teach at AOH.  But how could I not?  I learn more from them than they could ever learn from me.  I may be teaching them how to read, but they are teaching me to be more compassionate, more kind and more charitable.  It helps me to be a little more grateful for all of the blessings in my life—including the ability to read this email without any assistance.  I’m reminded that some of our neighbors aren't as fortunate.

And that’s the story of our Capitol tour!

-Kate, Academy of Hope evening volunteer