This was week 1 back on the job for my internship at Alternatives for Girls in downtown Detroit. We started our first week of the Rise n’ Shine summer day camp at the organization. So Tuesday morning at 9AM, I walked into a room with 40 bright-eyed and bushy-tailed girls between the ages of 7 and 14 ready for their month of summer camp. I spoke with my supervisor to learn that I was in charge of doing reading assessments with all the girls. This sounded fun – I love reading, and I love kids books, so it sounded like a great way to spend my day.
Fast forward to four hours later when I had heard the same ten-page passage from a book about pigs that could talk read to me at least 12 times, and I was not feeling as into it as I was at the beginning of the day. I drove home that afternoon thinking a lot about my privilege. So many of these girls (of all ages) were struggling to read books at their grade level. This broke my heart – I was a reader as a child. I read several steps above my grade level and tore through novel upon novel by age nine. This is not the first time this internship has caused me to take a step back and reflect on the privilege that I have. I feel so blessed to have parents who encouraged my love of stories and taught me how to read at such a young age.
The next day, we had the first day of programming at the camp. The first half of the day, I was trained in typing up case notes. (It’s not as fun as it sounds). It’s monotonous, but seeing that side of social work was really great. Sometimes I would be working in the field and think “Wow, is it always this fun? I’m going swimming and it’s being called work.” No, it’s not. There’s a lot of paperwork and planning that goes into the work that we do. I am really excited to see more of what there is to do as a social worker in this type of work.
That afternoon, I helped to lead the first literacy workshop with the 12-14 year old girls for the summer camp. We will be focusing a lot on the importance of words, literature and inclusive language. I am very much looking forward to hearing what the girls have to say.
Yesterday was the third day of the camp and the last day for this week. We took our first field trip. [We go on field trips to places around the Detroit area every Thursday in July]. This week we went to a waterpark in Oakland County. This was simultaneously very fun and very stressful. Each staff member was assigned two or three girls to supervise during the day. I had three precious little nine year olds who dragged me straight to the water slides within 10 seconds of being in the gates. The day was hot and we did everything about 23 times just to make sure we got the full experience. Sounds fun, right? Okay, now try being in a wave pool with three 9-year-old girls who can’t swim. Now it’s getting fun stressful. I wanted to get out of the wave pool after one insanely nerve-wracking 10 minutes of huge waves, but those three chicas did not. So we stayed – for hours. So here’s that one other thing I’ve learned about Social Work time and time again – sacrifice. Whether that’s the getting up at 7am so I can get all the way to Detroit every morning, or typing up case notes for 4 hours, or spending four hours straight in a wave pool trying to make sure these kids don’t drown – the sacrifices make it worth it. The hours and endless tasks are worth it when you see the girls’ faces light up when you walk in the door. It’s worth it when you’re leaving at the end of the day and a 12-year-old who is just too cool for school makes sure to ask, “Miss Sydney, I’ll see you next week, right?”
This opportunity has given me a chance to see these girls’ lives. I am so honored to be a part of their story, and that is what working in this field means to me – having the privilege of being a part of someone else’s story. I am so excited for my next few weeks of Rise n Shine, more sunburns and teaching girls about how I grew up without a basement.
“It’s a privilege to be able to bear witness to someone’s story when they may not have had the chance to tell it before.” – Lindy Alexander