This AmeriCorps week we are highlighting the work of current and former AmeriCorps members at Higher Achievement. We asked current DC Metro AmeriCorps Achievement Fellow, Astyn Quander to share her story. Here is what she had to say!
My name is Astyn Quander, and I am the Ward 7 AmeriCorps Achievement Fellow at Higher Achievement. My major responsibilities are program recruitment and high school placement. I lead a dynamic group of 8th grade scholars every Tuesday to support them through the high school application process. Scholars have to research the area high schools, complete online applications, write essays, take a placement test, and interview in order to receive acceptance offers to many of the more competitive programs in D.C. In the D.C. public school system, 8th graders have the option to apply to selective citywide high schools as well as high performing charter schools. The average graduation rate of the 6 most selective city wide high schools is 94 percent, whereas at the Ward 7 neighborhood high school, the graduation rate is 60 percent.* When I am at the Ward 7 Achievement Center, I can be found leading study hall, engaging with scholars during supper and recess, or helping out with mentoring.
I was born and raised in Washington, D.C., and attended college at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Outside of my AmeriCorps service, I enjoy photography, working out, trying new restaurants, and running my wellness blog, AllAboutAstyn.com. After being involved in short term service projects throughout my life, I decided to participate in AmeriCorps to make a longer term commitment to service. I also wanted to take advantage of the education benefits AmeriCorps offers upon completion of a service year. Next year I will be attending Ball State University to receive my Master’s in Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education. I chose to apply to Higher Achievement specifically because I attended a D.C. public middle school, and felt compelled to give back to the community that molded me.
Going into AmeriCorps, it was imperative that I worked with an organization that treats service members as professionals. I wanted to serve my community, but also gain skills that I will use next year during my graduate assistantship at BSU. Higher Achievement ensures that everyone who serves through AmeriCorps is given a role that is valuable to the organization and to the scholars. I’ve also been given the opportunity to participate in professional development to build new skills. One example of this was during my first month at Higher Achievement, all of the AmeriCorps fellows attended a thirty hour Advancing Youth Development training. The week- long course introduced the principles and best practices of youth development to those who work with youth.
This year, I learned that with time, one person is able to make a huge impact on a community. When I started working with the 8th graders on Tuesday nights during high school placement, only one scholar knew where she wanted to apply for high school. By the end of the first semester, 100% of the 8th graders at my center completed their online applications as well as their essays. I am looking forward to the next half of my service year with Higher Achievement at Ward 7, and I am excited to witness the amazing things my scholars will continue to accomplish.
*These figures were pulled together based on statistics available to the public at MySchoolDC.org