Key Takeaways from PRYSE Academy

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I can’t believe PRYSE Academy is already over; it went by so fast! I loved meeting and getting to know the students at PRYSE Academy. Their personalities shined through their energy during games in class, creative answers to opening circle questions, drawings that answered questions, and their goals for the future.  This internship had many key takeaways. First, I realized that it is important to use creative, engaging materials in teaching. At the end of PRYSE Academy, campers were asked about their favorite aspects of the experience. Many of the students revealed that they loved the activities that allowed for creative expression or aligned with their interests. For example, one student mentioned that he enjoyed learning healthy habits while practicing soccer drills. Many students revealed how much they loved the weekly creative workshops, such as the photography workshop. I saw some of their pictures during the final showcase. It was truly amazing to see them take photographs as they explored the city. Additionally, I loved seeing them use light, shadows, and various angles to highlight different parts of their photos. 

Furthermore, it was great to see that PRYSE Academy used fun materials to teach common topics. For instance, in one class, students learned how to describe themselves and explore their own personalities by creating their own Powerpuff Girls. Their characters would have their own “superpowers”, which would be their personality traits. In another class, students learned about storytelling. This is a topic that is a commonly covered topic in English education. To explore storytelling, students were shown pictures of various scenes and asked to think of what happened. Later on, students were asked to share superstitions from their own cultures as a form of storytelling. Moments like these truly showcased that PRYSE Academy is a culturally affirming environment.

Additionally, I realized how important a sense of community is, especially for refugee and immigrant youth in our society. Some of the students at the PRYSE Academy had just come to the United States a few months prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, they didn’t have much of a chance to make new friends in person before online schooling began. PRYSE Academy offered them an opportunity to meet new friends in a culturally affirming environment. I loved seeing that the students referred to each other as friends by the end of camp; some of the students were already planning the activities that they would do together when they could finally see each other in person. One student revealed that her favorite part about camp was that she got to meet new friends this summer. Another emphasized that even in the pandemic, this one month of camp made her very happy. 

One of my favorite days of camp was when the students shared compliments about each other. It was clear that even though the duration/ format of camp had been for four weeks in an online setting, the students had gotten to know each other. It was heartwarming to see the students speak of their new friends’ personalities and interests. They talked about which of their friends was a spectacular artist, or which one had an amazing taste in music, or which one was super friendly and supportive in all situations. Students revealed that they loved learning about each other and learning new things from each other. 

From my one-on-one tutoring/ homework help with students, I realized how difficult the education system can be without specific ESL oriented materials. This includes not only English homework with complex historical contexts, but also math homework with lengthy word problems. From working with students, it is clear that they go above and beyond once this language barrier is lifted/ eased. I am constantly impressed with their perseverance in this difficult situation. I am glad that as an organization, ARYSE is there to advocate for the specific learning needs of these students and support these students outside of PRYSE Academy as well. 

Overall, I hope to bring these takeaways to any future teaching experiences. I want to incorporate creative activities into teaching, encourage a sense of community amongst students, and focus on individualized learning goals. In regard to my career, I still want to become a physician. However, this experience has confirmed I want to continue supporting local immigrant and refugee communities, whether it be educational services as I am doing right now or direct care and advocacy in the future. 

Throughout this internship experience, I also had personal growth. Specifically, I felt that PRYSE Academy allowed me to develop skills in flexibility and adaptability. For example, with the online platform of the camp, it was expected that we would have some technological issues. In one instance, when I was working with a student one-on-one, the interpreter’s computer stopped working for a portion of the lesson. As a result, I had to adapt and work with the student without the interpreter. In this scenario, I focused on making sure that the student could understand the core material of their homework. I also tried to use everyday examples to explain difficult concepts. Flexibility and adaptability were also useful in the classroom settings when activities took longer or shorter than expected. These are skills that are useful in all teaching experiences, and ultimately in all careers. Academically, I feel that I improved at explaining material in different ways, whether it be from verbal explanations, text, or images. I am sure that I will continue to use these skills when tutoring ESL in the future. 

I wanted to end this blog post by sharing some more about the wonderful students at the PRYSE Academy – they truly made camp a memorable experience. Every year, PRYSE Academy has a final showcase. During this event, students often reveal their artistic abilities, musical talents, and anything that they want to share from camp. This year, as with the online format of the camp, the final showcase was aired online. Here is the YouTube link in case you are interested in seeing what everyone at camp was up to this year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdKoFZL-0cU

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