SIS November Blog: Elizabeth Moraff

The concept of results is a funny one, especially when we’re talking about community service. This semester marks my seventh semester working with Partners in Print, my fourth as a Team Leader. In the calmer moments, when I’m not bustling about answering a mentor’s question or chatting up a site supervisor, my mind drifts towards this elusive construct. I often find myself wondering, as I hold up a sign that says the mentors have six minutes before switching to teaching the next literacy technique, what am I actually doing?
Most of my life as a student produces tangible results. I study, I get a good grade. I write a paper and feel its weight and the printer’s heat on it as I slide it into the appropriate notebook. Dark circles appear under my eyes in perfect proportion to the amount of sleep I lose. Every Wednesday and Thursday in these local schools, though, the most tangible consequence of the night seems to be a dearth of handouts for each literacy technique and a list of names of the parents who came.
At least, that’s how it felt this month as I pored over a grant application with the coordinator of Partners in Print this month. Each of the questions asked us to prove how effective the program is, asking for specificity, for numbers. Granted, the coordinator provided the best numbers we have. Each night after the workshop, we ask parents to evaluate the program and assess how the program has helped them or not. Their feedback encouraged me. Over 90% of parents said that the program was helpful, and that they had used literacy techniques that the program taught them at home. Somewhere around 87% of parents had reported that they felt more confident reading with their children and helping with their education because of Partners in Print. Certainly, such feedback constitutes results to be proud of (and hopefully to garner a grant, we’re always short of funding). Reflecting on that grant, and those numbers, I think that is the most tangible the results of Partners in Print will ever get.
They also happen to be the least important. When I think about Partners in Print’s effect, I think of when we went to a school called Thomas Stone. The principal and the site supervisor stayed the entire time, greeted the parents, even ordered them pizza. At the end of the night, as we had wrapped up our things and were ready to hit the van, one of the presenters sat talking with a dad at a table. The presenter, who joined PNP this semester, sat listening intently, responding emphatically, for at least fifteen minutes. At the end of the night, I had to signal him away.
When I asked what they were talking about, the presenter just said the dad had been telling him about the struggles he was having helping his child in school and navigating the system for him. While I’ll never know the exact details of the conversation or its effects, I know that a presenter got to connect with one of the parents at a deep level. More than percentages on a paper, I hope that is the result that Partners in Print can produce.

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