Hudsonite takes to Boston to mentor youthsEven though he eventually wants to be a lawyer, Cory Heaton, a 2007 Hudson High School graduate, working with kids has always been something he wanted to do.
By: By Jordan Willi, Hudson Star-Observer
Even though he eventually wants to be a lawyer, Cory Heaton, a 2007 Hudson High School graduate, working with kids has always been something he wanted to do.
He got that chance this summer when he was accepted into the City Year program, which is part of Americorps. The program sends young adults from the ages of 17-24 to 20 cities across the country, as well as two cities internationally, to provide mentoring and tutoring for at-risk children from grades 3-10. The main goal of City Year is to reduce the high school dropout rates.
“I was a political science and public finance major in college,” Heaton said. “But I liked education, too. I even took some education policy classes at school. I was pretty sure I didn’t want to teach, but I wanted to work with kids.”
In order become part of the City Year team Heaton, 23, had to apply to only one of the 22 locations. He was accepted into the program soon after graduating from college and had to be in Boston by the Aug. 3 to begin City Year basic training. Within a few weeks, Heaton was working with a team of 13 other City Year members at a K-8 school in Roxbury area.
“I generally work 60-70 hours a week. On a normal day, I’d be getting up at 5 a.m. to be at school by 7 a.m. The team greets the kids as they come into the school,” Heaton said. “One of the most fun parts is seeing the little kids get so excited about seeing us there to meet them.”
During the day, Heaton and his fellow City Year mentors go into classrooms and provide whole class support for the teachers, which means they do whatever the teacher needs them to in order to keep things moving smoothly.
Aside from helping the teachers, City Year looks at targeting at-risk youths and makes sure they work with those kids to give them the best chances to succeed. To accomplish this, Heaton and his team conduct a variety of small group and individual mentoring and tutoring sessions.
“At lunch, we do a lunch bunch meeting with three or four kids and teach them about conflict resolution. I think that it is really beneficial to them,” said Heaton. “I also help out with an after-school program with about 30 kids where they get an hour to work on homework with us there to help them. Then after that, we have an hour of enrichment, with every Thursday being the day we teach them about a social justice issue.”
The biggest challenge for Heaton has been the transition from a smaller town like Hudson to a large city like Boston. People tried to warn him about the people in a larger city and how mean they can be, but for the most part he says everyone has been really nice.
“There is always something to do, especially something that is cheap or free,” Heaton said. “It is a big city, but sometimes it has a small town feel. I have been comfortable here, which I didn’t expect. I haven’t felt like a small town nobody in a huge city.”
Although he has enjoyed his time in Boston, Heaton is glad to have the chance to come home for the holidays and spend time with his family and friends. It has been six months since he was home and it has been a little overwhelming with all the back and forth of the holidays, Heaton said.
When Heaton finishes his year of mentoring for City Year in the middle of June he will have the opportunity apply for a second year of City Year. However, getting into the second year of City Year is a much more selective process as the program only accepts 30 senior corps members.
“I am pretty sure I want to apply again. I really learned a lot so far from the experience,” said Heaton. “It has been really inspiring to see people give up a year of their life to work with the kids and the community they live in.” He recommends the experience to his peers.
If Heaton does not get accepted into the senior core group of City Year, he will apply for law school, possibly somewhere on the east coast. He is the son of Kevin and Meg Heaton of Hudson.
For more information about City Year, go to www.cityyear.org.