Talia Martino, a junior at Bates College, has worked since her first year with refugee youth in the Lewiston, Maine community, helping middle and high school students overcome barriers to academic success, such as limited English proficiency and delayed formal schooling. Most of her work takes place at an after-school homework help program at the Lewiston Public Library. She has played a variety of roles in this program,including youth tutor and mentor, volunteer recruiter and trainer, and liaison between the library and Bates. Additionally, Talia has been instrumental in evaluating the success of the program, which has allowed the library to receive several grants to continue supporting this work.
Thus far in my collegiate career, all of my favorite courses and activities have included fieldwork that allowed me to spend time with children in the local community. I currently serve as the coordinator for an after school homework help program for middle and high school Somali refugee students at the local public library. Since beginning my work at the library, I have come to understand the deep socio-cultural and academic divides caused by the intersectionality of oppression. Adolescent literacy encompasses a large part of the identity a student assumes as they move and progress throughout their educational career, and I have had the honor of serving as a tool for a group of students as they attempt to assign meaning to their schoolwork and the broader social world around them. My time at the library has provided me first hand experience with the relationship between Somali and American culture that expands beyond the realm of educational achievement. My experience with cultural diversity has given me the tools necessary to relate to individuals with different experiences and interests on very personal levels, as I work towards inclusivity for all students.