Jessica Chirico promotes literacy through her EC Scholars internship.
Jessica Chirico, a senior studying English at East Carolina University, chose to incorporate her passion for literature into her final collegiate internship.
Chirico worked with the instructional coach at G.R. Whitfield Elementary School in Grimesland, to identify the classroom that needed her assistance the most – a third grade class where most of the students are below the average reading level.
“It’s always fun to work with kids,” said Chirico.
Throughout the semester she has actively assessed their reading and comprehension levels through supervision and 10-minute quizzes. “I’m making sure they are not reading baby books (just) because it’s easy, but pushing themselves to make sure that they are growing as readers,” said Chirico.
As an EC Scholar – a recipient of the most prestigious scholarship offered to no more than 20 incoming freshman each year – Chirico is required to complete the EC Scholars Leadership Internship course. This course provides the chance to select an internship experience that will positively impact in the community and capitalize on their personal passions.
“I wanted to work with children and promoting literacy because that’s really important to me,” said Chirico. “I know that because I read a lot as a kid, it’s helped me in so many ways. I can write well and I can understand word problems in math well because I read so often.”
Chirico said she reads to the students so that they can see literacy as a form of entertainment. “Being read to helps you see that it can still be interesting instead of getting frustrated. (I’m) trying to show them that reading is fun and if they work at it, it won’t be such a struggle.”
She said she hopes her 12-week span of work with the students’ literacy will stay with them and as the students get older, they will remember that someone told them reading was important.
After graduation, Chirico wants to continue working with books as an editor with a publishing company. A previous internship with the "North Carolina Literary Review," a statewide literary magazine published in the English Department at ECU, provided the opportunity to learn about editing material for publication. With this profession, she will be able to continue pursuing her passion for books.
What motivates you to work with elementary students?
I am motivated by working with the kids, knowing that even me coming in for a couple weeks a semester can make a difference. When I was in third grade, I remember the high school reading buddies who came in (to work with us).
Why did you choose ECU?
Originally, I wanted to come because the music school and the teaching program at ECU are both great; also I got the EC Scholars (award). ECU is just far enough away from home but still close, which was good for my freshman year. I had a lot of teachers in high school who went to ECU. They only had great things to say about it. The energy at ECU is so much better than anywhere else. I didn’t apply to anywhere else because I wasn’t interested.
What is something everyone should do while at ECU?
Join Student Pirate Club and go to the football games – and go early. A group of friends and I always go to the game two hours early. We always get the front row and we get a lot of pictures taken.
How has it been working with the Honors College?
It’s been really great. I just appreciate everything the Honors College offers. I’ve gotten work experience in a professional environment. I’ve been able to make connections with the faculty at the Honors College that I think will help me. It’s been a great experience being able to work with those people and form friendships not just as students and professors, but more of like a mentor.
How has being an EC Scholar changed your collegiate experience?
Just being a part of that program has put me with a group of students who are a lot like me. We have the same values, we have similar backgrounds and it’s been a great blessing to be able to make friends with people who have the same interests. I didn’t know if I wanted to be in the Honors College because I was thinking, “I pushed myself so hard in high school, I kind of want to take a break now.” But it’s changed me. They have a lot of leadership programs and colloquiums that have helped me be a leader and helped me push myself as a student.
Written by: Jamitress Bowden
Photography by: Cliff Hollis