As an investigative reporter and weekend anchor for FOX25 News, Kerry Kavanaugh understands the importance of developing one’s personal voice. Following an Emmy-nominated stint with WSB-TV in Atlanta, Kerry returned home to the Boston area in January 2015 to join FOX25 News, and began looking for a way to help students discover their own voices. Soon after, she found Boston Partners in Education. Despite her demanding schedule, Kerry made time to volunteer at the Chittick Elementary School as part of our School Volunteer Program (now referred to as Accelerate), where she met with two 3rd grade students once per week. Kerry was kind enough to reflect upon her experiences as a Boston Partners volunteer below:
Q: How did you become involved with Boston Partners?
I was looking for an opportunity to work with children and I found Boston Partners in Education online. I liked that the program provided opportunities to give back in many ways, and ways that worked with my very unpredictable schedule.
Q: Describe the students you are helping at the Chittick. What challenges did they face, where were they struggling?
I worked with two girls that were smart and capable, but they needed a little extra help realizing that. One student in particular was a first year student from Jamaica. She loved being in school in the U.S., but she was still looking for her voice. When we first started working with each other, she would ask me to read her lessons out loud. I would say, “Let’s hear you!” She told me she was embarrassed a few times. I encouraged to find her voice and own it in our judgement-free zone. After a couple of weeks, she never asked me to read again. She found her voice. That is what it’s all about, especially for a young girl.
Q: What kind of relationship did you create with the students over the year?
During our hour together each week, we worked. It wasn’t a break time. But, we all looked forward to seeing each other. We would do some chatting about my job, school, holidays, vacations, but we always worked. Point being, even though this was a ‘work period’ the one-on-one time meant so much to the students – they looked forward to the personal time, a break in the day, and the attention. I think the fact that a visitor was there just for them made them feel special and in turn, boosted confidence.
Q: Is there a specific moment that defined the relationship with either the student or the teacher in your memory?
One of my last days visiting the Chittick, my classroom time overlapped with a school program in which the students in my classroom were performing. When my students saw that I was there just to watch them sing and dance, they beamed with pride. That was the best evidence I could ask for that this was the best way for me to spend an hour of my week.
Q: Why do you feel it’s important to give back to Boston in this way?
I wanted to help a community of students who can easily fall through the cracks. My mom is a long-time educator, so I know it can’t all fall on just one teacher.
Q: What did you feel you gained with Boston Partners personally?
I gained a new community of friends and peers.
Q: What do you believe were the most important effects of an academic mentor in public schools?
I keep going back to the same thing, it was the personal attention paid to the student and the confidence and pride that gives them. It’s evident in the way they light up when the volunteers walk into the classroom.
Q: I noticed you were a reading mentor in the past. How has this volunteer experience been different for you?
This was a little different because I was in the classroom during lessons. In other opportunities, I would read during a lunch period. I like being in a classroom because it gave me a better feel for how the students interacted with their peers and how I could best help them.
Thank you, Kerry, for volunteering your time to support Boston’s public school students!