The term “social justice” entered my lexicon at the Student Activities Commission Fair of my freshman year. As my roommate and I stood at the DC Reads table, we listened to the coordinators passionately refer to education inequity as the major social justice issue of our time and describe DC Reads’ systemic approach for combating the vast education disparities in the District. While the deeper meaning of “social justice” and “systemic approach” remained lost on me until later in my freshman year, I jumped at the chance to escape the Hilltop on a weekly basis and tutor kids.

As soon as I began tutoring, the continually increasing weight of education as a social justice issue pressed upon my mind. Roughly 70 percent (if not more) of the kids DC Reads works with read at pre-K through second grade levels. While third grade curriculum should include multisyllabic words, significant fluency, comprehension assessment and introductory grammar, many of our students need intensive alphabet and phonics lessons. If the children were already so far behind, would the pattern continue?  If so, how would they catch up? Would they catch up?  Ultimately, third grade tutoring, regardless of how intensive, is not enough to fully redirect the academic trajectory of an at-risk child and definitely not that of a community of children.

As the year progressed, I accepted and explored DC Reads’ systemic approach to closing the disparities in student resources and student success: intensive tutoring; in-and out-of-school mentoring; advocacy at the parent, school, district and national levels; engaging tutor enrichment; Georgetown campus engagement and awareness and substantial community involvement. While tutoring will always be at the core of DC Reads,  the club gains more power as a resource for students, because it does so many other things. If you don’t have the time to become a tutor but still have an interest in engaging education as a social justice issue, I urge you to become involved in the DC Reads Advocacy Committee. The effect of informing parents, politicians, community members and fellow Hoyas of the challenges facing students and their needs makes an incredibly meaningful difference in their living rooms, classrooms, communities and academic lives.

— Sammy Meyer

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