A Long Way to Begin: My Experience Volunteering at a Shelby County School

Posted on October 26, 2014


By: Alexandra Greenway

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 8.55.48 AMAt the beginning of the semester, I decided I was ready to become more involved in the Memphis community.  I had my comfortable, fun-filled freshman year and was excited to take everything I’d learned thus far and apply it in order to help people who really needed it.  I came in contact with a local middle school and immediately started making plans to volunteer there.  Everything seemed to be coming into place.

That was a month ago.  I still have yet to actually meet with any children or begin the drama program we’ve been attempting to develop.  I’ve been to the school multiple times and I’ve been in very consistent contact with the vice principal, but everytime I’ve been, something doesn’t go quite right.  The children didn’t finish filling out their permission slips.  I haven’t completed a full background check.  The principal wasn’t available to fill out the paperwork necessary for me to get a background check.  There’s always something. 

But that something has never been the school itself.  Sherwood Middle School is a thriving, beautiful place.  The walls are plastered with posters, mosaics, and student art.  The children smile and wave at me when I walk past, and the teachers are clearly deeply involved with everything they do.  I have never felt anything but joy, respect, and admiration for Sherwood.  It seems that the “something” that continues to hold us back from developing the program is the hardships that schools in Shelby County Schools are continually facing.  In struggling to support children from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, to combat outside prejudices and unfair legislation, and to weave through the bueracratic web of Shelby County Schools, these teachers and students are facing obstacles that I had never experienced in my cushy affluent charter school at home in Atlanta.  And yet, they continue.  Every time I visit, the principles and teachers tell me how excited the students are to start working with me.  Despite a month of beuracracy and distractions, Sherwood Middle School is committed to providing the best for their students, no matter what the costs may be.  And I for one am ecstatic to be a part of it. 

Posted in: Education