Graduate Assistant Testimony

This post is difficult for me to write, only because I’m not sure I have the right words to describe what working on this program has meant to me these past two years. I don’t know if I can encapsulate all that it’s given me or how lucky and honored I feel that I got to witness the growth of these amazing student writers.

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I could talk about how the experience I have gained coordinating this project is applicable to nearly every job I apply for. I have experience with a wide range of students, community outreach, coordinating independent programs, creating literacy programs, and experience with diverse communities. I literally gave a phone interview in the middle of our 2017 residency, and I couldn’t stop talking about the work the writers were doing.

(I was asked to come and interview in person, on the strength of my experience that I gained in this project.)

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I could talk about how working on this program has gave me two years of job security during which I could do my work around my class schedule and allowing me to directly apply what I was learning in class that week to my work on this project.

I had financial security while working on my master’s degree, while working in a position that constantly reminded me why becoming a youth librarian is my dream job: I get to work with students like these ones.

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And that is what it really comes down to, for me. I am more grateful than I could ever say for the job experience and the financial security, but I am most thankful for simply the honor of knowing these students and being a part of their powerful journey to viewing themselves as writers and the creators of their own stories.

I got to be a part of that. It was everything.

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I got to hear their stories and help them find the right words to describe themselves. One student taught me how to drive standard cars, while we sat in the school library on beanbag chairs. I giggled over YA romance novels with another. I played trains and talked about how hard it is to sit still with one boy.

I got to witness their transformations, but most importantly I got to witness their own realizations about their identities. I saw how proud they were reading their poems to a room full of teachers and family members. I saw them listen to what our authors told them: “your words MATTER,” and take those words to heart. Watching them internalize the pride and agency these experiences gave them was one of the proudest experiences of my life.

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I experienced powerful moments that shaped my own identity. As a white Latina woman, I have struggled to openly identify as part of a community that I am sometimes perceived not to be a part of. Talking with Matt de la Pena about his works and my life experiences, and having him tell me, “So YOU’RE Danny!” (the main character in his book Mexican WhiteBoy) was meaningful in my own self-process of acknowledging all the parts of my identity.

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I got to be mentored by amazing, world-changing librarians: Sandra Hughes-Hassell, Julie Stivers, Kathryn Cole. I worked in their libraries. I saw their love for their students, I saw how they developed meaningful relationships with every student that they knew. I worked with them, got to know their students myself, and was challenged by them every day: to push myself further, to be a better librarian, to be a louder advocate for our students.

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And these kids. And their words.

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I got to be a part of that. Working with these children made me feel like this, all the time.