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This week’s installment of Moments That Matter comes from Rachel Dent, who as a Schweitzer Fellow in North Carolina last year worked with the Language and Literacy Enhancement and Development Project to provide both face-to-face direct language and literacy enhancement to underserved preschool children, and outreach services to those children’s parents. (Click here to read an earlier installment of Moments That Matter from Schweitzer Fellow Kelli York, Dent’s project partner.)

Dent, a student in speech pathology at the NCCU School of Education, says:

In one of the groups we work with, there was a very outgoing, impressionable female. One day I decided that we would take turns reading [a] book aloud, not in efforts to find out [the students’] flaws, but to enhance their confidence in reading. Each student was responsible for reading just one page, with assistance provided by myself if needed.

When it was this young lady’s turn, she created every excuse why she did not want to read. She said everything from “Come back to me at the end” to “My throat hurts.” I did not force the student to read, but after our session for the day, I thought I would speak to her about not participating.

She began to cry and said that she was so embarrassed by her reading skills. She said that she could not pronounce words and got so nervous when asked to do so. At this time, I began to share the difficulties I had as a child. I was also like this young lady. I could not read aloud. I would mix up words, skip words, and just become so frustrated at reading.

The personal connection we made on that day lasted throughout the time we spent at that site. At the end of our experience, she volunteered to read aloud. This meant so much to me. It not only meant that she felt more confident in her language and literacy skills, but it also meant that she trusted us not to criticize her … it was a very powerful experience for me.

About Moments That Matter

Each year, approximately 200 Schweitzer Fellows across the U.S. commit themselves to creating and carrying out an intense yearlong service project that addresses unmet health needs — all on top of their typical graduate school responsibilities.

It’s an awe-inspiring commitment — and one that may at times seem thankless.

But for each Schweitzer Fellow, there are those sustaining moments — the moments when things “click,” and you have instant, inspiring proof that your Schweitzer project is making a difference that’s rippling outward. These, like the Moment above, are the Moments That Matter — and here at Beyond Boulders we are spotlighting them every Tuesday.