Hira Ahmed

As a current graduate student, I seldom get a chance to relive my carefree childhood, the curiosity that lead me to pursue the field of science. My experience at George Watts Elementary school as a service-learning assistant (SLA) for Education 111 has been phenomenal thus far. Being part of the Education FOCUS cluster, I got the opportunity to interact and learn from some of the most intelligent and curious buddies both at the elementary school and at Duke. The fourth and fifth graders at George Watts Elementary school have exceeded my expectations in all regards. This photo is of our first day at the school. Soon after the professors briefed us about what was expected of us and what was not, we readied ourselves to walk over to meet our ‘Watts buddies’ for the very first time.

In the hallway, near the door of the brightly lit classroom we were welcomed by the ‘Community Building Paper Sculptures’ - handmade artifacts by our ‘Watts Buddies’ to welcome us. The small but welcoming gesture was truly remarkable. It set a welcoming tone right from the beginning, and in my opinion helped the Duke students settle in better.

A warm welcome and their upbeat, disciplined and positive attitude made the rest of the first day full of smiles and meaningful interactions. Collaborating with elementary school students and college freshmen on a weekly basis has allowed me to understand and observe the changes in the two groups through social interactions and notice how the same experiences shaped different thoughts and ideas among different students, with each student reflecting on those ideas in their own unique ways.

Students are not consumers of facts. They are active creators of knowledge. Through service learning, interactions like those provided by the FOCUS program benefit the students academically, professionally, and personally, which is absolutely vital to the social, cultural, and economic growth of our nation.