On the surface, tutoring rising first graders in Richmond, Va., might seem a world apart from teaching adult English language-learners in Milan, Italy. But Cassidy Perkinson, ’19, who spent her summer interning with Youth Life Foundation in Richmond, believes that the two have more in common than you might think.

“A large theme that I have seen working with different groups and ages of students is that many students are afraid to try, and trying is the most important part,” Perkinson says.

Perkinson, who interned with Active English while she studied abroad in Milan during fall 2017, connected her experiences teaching English as a Second Language to her Jepson Internship at The Youth Life Foundation, a Richmond-based nonprofit that serves students from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

 “During the summer, Youth Life runs a six-week program that focuses on strengthening students’ understanding of the previous year’s academic material,” Perkinson explains. “The program aims to fight the ‘summer slump’ and better prepare students for the upcoming school year.”

Perkinson worked with rising first graders in the program and was responsible for planning and executing weekly lessons and activities to reinforce kindergarten learning.

“At the beginning of the program, many of my students would close themselves off during a lesson if they did not understand what we were doing and would give up really quickly,” Perkinson says.

Perkinson, who also volunteers for Linking Through Language and Technology through the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement, says that this is something all the students she’s worked with have in common.

“Encouraging students across cultures, audiences, and ages has been a really important part of the learning process. I try to emphasize that it’s important to make mistakes, because then you can learn from them, whereas if you are afraid to try, you’ll never truly understand what the answer is,” says Perkinson.

Perkinson shared that one of the students she worked with at Youth Life struggled to put together different sounds to form a word. The student could identify the different sounds that letters in a word made, but when tasked with sounding the word out, he would make a mistake and stop altogether.

“It took a lot of encouragement and a lot of patience, but he started to put together all of the sounds to say a new word,” Perkinson recalled. “It was the coolest thing to see him finally ‘get’ it, and then he was off to the races!”

Perkinson is considering teaching English abroad after graduation next year, noting that it would capitalize on her experiences from Milan and Youth Life Foundation.

“This has definitely made me more confident speaking and directing others, and through the different experiences I have had with my students, I have identified my strengths and weaknesses as a leader too,” Perkinson said.