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Story of Service – Liz Dellwo

March 10, 2011

By Jeremy Exell, AmeriCorps Alums

We hoped you enjoyed the story of service from yesterday. Here’s the next installment in our series of highlighted stories. Remember to share your testimonial with us too so we can show Congress how much AmeriCorps impacts this nation.


Liz Dellwo

Campus Corps Member – Montana State University

As a Campus Corps team leader for Montana State University, I took away many great experiences. From sitting one-on-one with fellow team members, to organizing different volunteer opportunities, it was all a phenomenal experience. My favorite experience, however, was my direct service at a local Bozeman Elementary School, where I had the opportunity to tutor two young students from the start to the end of the school year. The students were both able to share with me stories from the playground, friends, and their families in between math lessons.

One of the students, E.W., came mostly in the same clothes every day, either torn or dirty, and always commented that her family didn’t have a lot of money. She struggled with her homework as a result of not a lot of support at home, so she was never allowed to have recess. I decided to set up an incentive program with her (my psychology degree going to great use). I told her that for every 4 days she could get her homework turned in on time I would give her something new that she could use in school. Her eyes lit up when she heard she would be getting new pencils and erasers. I came back the next week and sure enough she had turned her homework in! Her teacher was thrilled, and E.W. got to play on the playground during recess. The quality of her homework even increased as she was looking forward to new things every week.

Shortly after we had set up the program, it was time for Christmas break. As an America Reads * America Counts program, we give each child that is tutored two books as a gift. Excitedly, I arrived to school at the end of the week with two books for each of my students. As I sat by E.W., I told her she had a present waiting for her in her mailbox that she could set under her tree. Once again, her eyes lit up as she began to ask me questions about what it might be.

The break came and went and I returned to my regular tutoring schedule once school was back in session. It was a snowy day and I rushed to the school as I was anxious to hear all about E.W.‘s break and what she did. As I asked her how it went, she quickly named off the few gifts she had received. Among her favorites were the books I gave her. Quietly that light came back into her eyes as she leaned over and whispered to me, ―Liz, I got the Barbie I wanted, did you give that to me too? I was overwhelmed with her question. ―No, I believe someone else is responsible for such a wonderful gift. I answered. As I sat there, I began to realize the very special relationship I had formed with her, and how much I was actually a part of her life.

As a follow-up, E.W. and her family are picking up and moving out-of-state to pursue some software programming opportunities. Although we may never cross paths again, being able to make the difference I did was extremely meaningful to my year of service.

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