Rend Lake College sophomore Angela Wright is the Cooperative Work-Study Program Student of the Month at RLC.
The decision came as a shock, Wright said.
“I’m honored,” she said. “I was surprised when she called yesterday. I was just shocked.”
“She” is Jenny O’Daniel, Cooperative Education and Employment Specialist at Rend Lake College. According to O’Daniel, the Co-Op Student of the Month is a brand-new honor coming out of the program. She said she created it in order to recognize the students’ commendable work and to encourage their enthusiasm about being involved with Co-Op.
Wright, 24, of Tamaroa, plans to major in Linguistics at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, after graduating from RLC, and eventually teach English as a second language. A part of that plan includes taking full advantage of the Cooperative Work-Study Program offered at RLC.
At Rend Lake College, the Cooperative Work-Study Program is designed primarily to enable Education and related majors a chance to practice in their chosen fields. However, the program is open to all majors, although it is preferred that the student have a chosen major. There are currently 47 students in the co-op program at RLC and approximately 900 to 950 students have gone through the program since it became grant funded more than a decade ago.
Wright joined the co-op program at the beginning of the semester and began her work translating English for Spanish-speaking students on Sept. 6, at McClellan Grade School in Mt. Vernon.
She has found that she enjoys working with the students under her supervision at MGS, she said. Mostly, she enjoys helping them assimilate their environment.
She added that MGS Principal Angie Mills created a welcoming work environment at the school.
“She made me feel right at home,” Wright said of Mills.
Although she was admittedly nervous on her first day, each day with the students has been an awakening, she said. The only thing she is unsure of is who is teaching who more.
“It was a little scary on my first day, because I only know basic Spanish,” she explained. “I was worried that I wouldn’t know enough. One student in the first grade, when I was nervous on my first day, made me feel a lot better. She was so happy to be where she was. She was so excited to be starting out in a new place and I figured, if she could do it, it couldn’t be hard for me.”
The rewards Wright said she has experienced so far in the co-op program include the valuable work experience through on-the-job training and the reciprocal learning environment with her students at McClellan.
“I feel so lucky to be getting this kind of experience,” she said. “It is a great opportunity. I recommend giving it a try. A lot of students are really reluctant about co-op. They’re not really sure about what it’s all about. It’s really good work experience.”
In her discipline, a core knowledge of all subjects and good social skills are requirements, Wright said.
“It’s a grade school,” she said. “If a student has a question about science you have to know a little bit about it. And you have to have patience ... lots of patience.”
Regarding her experience so far at RLC, she said, “It’s close to home and they offer a lot of courses that I need. I didn’t expect them to. And, I won’t be broke for years after going here.”
Since her position at MGS is a paid position, Wright is able to go to college and provide for her daughter, who turns 2 years old next month, without another job. Last semester, she made the Dean’s List at RLC.
“Angela was an easy choice as our Co-Op Student of the Month,” O’Daniel said “It actually took some persuasion to get her to apply for a position that is a perfect fit for her. During a recent visit to the school, Mills told me that Angela had helped her that very day with a student’s mother who does not speak English. The mother came to the school, but Mills was unable to determine what she wanted until Angela stepped in and translated.”
“I like Jenny,” Wright said of O’Daniel. “She’s really optimistic and she makes me believe in myself. She is very encouraging.”
Wright concluded that she looks forward to teaching and learning with her students at the school.
“They teach me too,” she said. “It’s not just me teaching them. And they kind of make fun of my Spanish accent.”