Guest Writer: Lindsay, Year-long CEA Volunteer
When I first met Jostin, I was only a couple weeks into my volunteer program. I was in a brand new, unfamiliar environment. I had virtually no confidence in myself and was very quiet, and often shied away from opportunities to talk to my colleagues. Jostin was the same, but with his peers. I remember sitting at his group’s table, watching them work together on a project, and Jostin sat quietly to the side. It wasn’t because he didn’t want to participate — you could see he was actively paying attention and listening to his peers. When presentation day came, and it was Jostin’s turn to present his information, he stepped to the front of the room and froze. His face was blank as he shuffled through his notes. The room was silent. A few tears rolled down his cheek. And the presentation ended.
Not long after that presentation, I was approached by our psychologist, Karen, and our education manager, Fred. After meeting, they determined that Jostin needed more individualized attention, for both social and academic reasons. With my background in Special Education, and experience working with students with unique needs, they thought we’d be a good fit. We determined that our main goal with Jostin would be to improve his handwriting, as his slow speed was the reason he was falling behind in classes. I immediately went to the internet, and we purchased different types of pencils and pencil grips that can help build finger strength and improve handwriting. I also came up with occupational therapy activities that can improve fine motor skills. While I was excited to work with him one-on-one, I was also incredibly nervous.
All of my fears were quickly diminished after our first meeting. That first Monday, along with every Monday to follow, Jostin showed up 10 minutes early and eager to learn. He played along with all of my activities, some of which were successful, and others that just failed. He gave me honest feedback on what strategies helped his writing, and which weren’t a good fit for him. I gave him writing prompts to learn more about him personally and discovered that he has a younger sister, some pets, and wants to be an engineer when he grows up. After further conversation with his school, we also learned that he has a particular difficult situation at home, which could be impacting his social skills and lack of confidence.
Over the course of the next few months, our team here at Starfish did everything we could to support Jostin. While I supported Jostin with his handwriting, Karen did weekly reading comprehension lessons with him. Pamela, his educator at Starfish, acted as his cheerleader and was always encouraging him to be his best. We all had the same goal in mind: to have Jostin come out of his shell and be successful in school.
Flash forward to the present, seeing Jostin now is like seeing a completely different kid. If I look over to his table during tutoring, I no longer see a quiet student sitting off to the side. I see a typical kid chatting, laughing, and collaborating with his peers. Recently, he stood in front of the room and spoke to the group with confidence and ease. It was amazing to see how much he was able to transform, all because of the support we gave him.