Ms. Kurtz First Grade Class falls in love with HU volunteers

Volunteer from Howard University’s 2011 Alternative Spring break assist teachers at Cleveland Elem.


WASHINGTON — The wide eyed, first graders rushed to the door of their colorful classroom to hug the volunteers of Howard University’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) goodbye on their last day at Cleveland Elementary. 

The Howard University Alternative spring break program (ASB) allows more than 50 Howard University undergraduate students to set aside their spring break rituals of hanging out on the beach with friends or visiting home to volunteer in cities of need around the country.

Jakira White, a sophomore advertising major from Baltimore, Md. and Bridgette Wardrick, a freshman political science major from Sewell, N.J. could have never imagine that the students would be that sad to see them leave.

“Somebody asked me to go home with them,” Wardrick said with a giggle. “It was really inspiring to know that they felt so close to us, they didn’t want us to leave.”

Despite the heartfelt goodbyes that the ASB volunteers received, the first day they arrived was the most memorable for White. Upon arriving in the classroom the first day White was immediately grabbed by Jayla Jenkins, student in the first grade class,  who asked her to be her big sister.

That moment meant a lot to White, who is an only child.

“As soon as I walked in the classroom Jayla grabbed my hand and asked me to be her big sister,” White said. “I was touched by that because I don’t have any siblings and I’ve always wanted a sister. It turned out that she was a slow learner so I was more then happy to give her the extra attention.”

White and Wardrick spent their spring break vacation volunteering in Ms. Kurtz first grade classroom assisting students with their math, reading, and writing skills. Participating in a BINGO game to help the students understand numbers and letters was a memorable moment for Carlos Otez, one of the students who worked with Wardrick during the game.

“She (Wardrick) was my partner for BINGO and we had a lot of fun,” Carlos said.

The day after Carlos received a 100 percent on his math worksheet and was excited to show his good score to his BINGO partner Wardrick. The good marks on his work made him feel “good and smart” said Carlos and he was eager to share his excitement with Wardrick.

Ms. Kurtz, who has been teaching first grade at Cleveland Elementary for four years, noticed the relationship the students developed with the volunteers as the week progressed.

“Over the course of the week the students improved with using the volunteers and they loved having them as guest,” Kurtz said. “It was helpful to have them assist me with the activities and lessons. A lot of students need one-on-one time and they were helpful in providing that.”

Kurtz hopes that through working with the students White and Wardrick realize that they are really role models to the kids and continues to volunteer with Cleveland Elementary. 

“Having Jakira and Bridgette help out for the week really made the kids day” Kurtz said.  “I hope they’ve developed an interest in being active with the students and continue to visit.”