My name is Ella Frederick, and I am a member of the Dudley Promise Corps. At the beginning of 2020, I made the decision to graduate from high school a year early. I was too late to apply to attend university in the fall, so instead I started searching for a gap year occupation. My sister, who lived in Massachusetts, sent me the Boston Plan for Excellence website. Living in rural Texas at the time, a job in Boston felt completely out of reach, but DPC paired two of my passions: working with kids, and social justice. I took the chance, and started my application almost immediately after reading about the program.
My application was accepted! Soon after, I met my cohort on Zoom, during our summer orientation. Together we researched and did our best to immerse ourselves virtually in the Dudley community. We trained throughout the rest of the summer, building community and learning how to support students. In August, my sister, our roommate, and I packed a U-Haul trailer, and drove the 2,000 miles from Texas to Massachusetts.
As the first day of school neared in September, DPC members received partner teacher assignments. I was assigned to a K1 classroom at Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School with teacher Aisha Dumbuya, and our paraprofessional, Allison Alexander. On the first day, the three of us were greeted with 22 Zoom windows, and 22 smiling K1 scholars. For my students, school on Zoom is the only school they’ve experienced. They learned how to mute and unmute before they learned how to count, and I learned how to operate Zoom along with them. Each day, they spend 135 minutes on Zoom. Ms. Dumbuya runs morning meeting and whole-group sessions for English and Math, then we separate into small groups, each led by an instructor. In small groups, I work with students directly. Together we’re studying letters, numbers, and shapes!
I’ve learned a lot this year, from how to lead a class on Zoom, to which silly face makes kids laugh the most. When I first started in the Dudley Promise Corps, I was afraid I was too young or inexperienced to fit well in my service position. Being part of this community helped me overcome those fears. I know now I am worthy. I am welcomed by my cohort, my class, the school, and the Dudley neighborhood. I am so grateful to be surrounded by kind and supportive people, who are committed to their service in the school and beyond. Before this year, I could not envision my future career path, but now, with experience at DSNCS and with AmeriCorps, I know I want a career in social activism, where I can work with and for communities.
After my year of service at Dudley Street, I will attend university. So far, I’ve applied to five schools, and received an acceptance letter from The University of Texas at Austin (yay!). I plan to study sociology and social work, and I am excited to see where that will lead me!