My Final Day at Four Oaks: It Was More Than Just Writing
This semester through the IYWP, I have had the pleasure of being able to spend my Monday nights volunteering at the Four Oaks center in Cedar Rapids. It has been one of the most challenging, motivating, moving and life-shaping experiences I have ever been a part of. At Four Oaks, I got to know a classroom full of eight to thirteen year olds who impacted me just as much as I hope I impacted them. Starting off at the beginning of the semester, it took time for us all to earn each other’s trust. As leaders, some of us for the first time, it was intimidating to walk into a classroom of children and attempt to pour your heart out and convince them to love writing. As a classroom of children, it was hard for them to trust us, and they needed time to realize that we were there to help them do something they enjoyed, and not ridicule them for spelling errors or misuse of punctuation, or make fun of them if their story “wasn’t good enough.” We worked hard together to form an atmosphere where everyone felt comfortable, whether someone was writing, teaching, or sharing. Looking back, it taught me a lot. I learned how to build trust from the utmost ground level, I learned how to trust, I learned how to give a little to get a little, and most importantly, I learned how to help a group of children nurture a skill that they loved. I knew that over the weeks we were making improvements when more and more kids raised their hands to share their pieces, and they grew more and more excited. What started as shy writers covering their papers with their small hands, turned into confident authors asking for help, tips, wanting to share ideas, and bursting with excitement to read their pieces aloud. It was amazing to see that transformation, and I’m so glad that I got to be a part of it.
Anastasia Protopappas is a UI undergraduate pursuing a Certificate in Writing and a potential career in law.