Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Student Spotlight: Grace Larson

Grace Larson on a climbing trip in Southern Spain, in El Chorro.  
by Ann Abbott

Now that she has graduated from the University of Illinois, Grace Larson has job plans. They just don't involve an office. Or even a building.

Grace is applying for jobs in wilderness therapy. She has taken her passion for climbing and outdoors adventures and combined that with her solid academic background, work experiences and proven ability to work with a diverse group of people. I know that Grace will excel in these jobs. 

As she was preparing her applications, Grace asked me for a letter of recommendation. I always ask students to give me the information I need to write a good letter, and I'd like to share with you what Grace sent me. My hope is that Grace's words will show students how their behavior in the classroom (and in the community!) really counts. 

Hey Ann!
So, some basic info about myself that you might want to know:
The course I took with you was Span332, Spanish and Entrepreneurship, this Spring 2012. I do not yet know my final grade in the course- but currently it is an A. I did my CSL work at ECRIMAC- working both in the office and one-on-one tutoring Maria [name changed] as well.

The job I am applying to is a wilderness therapy program in Utah (there are 3 I am interested in). ECIRMAC taught me a few valuable lessons that will help in this program:
-Working with people with different backgrounds than yourself is the most challenging and rewarding group you can work with. At ECIRMAC I learned to appreciate different cultures, life situations, and life challenges that I have never had to deal with in my own life. As Maria told me about her life, I appreciated and sympathized with the struggles of immigrant life. It felt amazing being able to give her something that could help her out…especially the gift of easing her communication with the English speaking world. In Wilderness therapy, I will be working with adolescents who have also had very different experiences than my own...supporting them in their own struggles and helping them find some more peace or understanding about the world around them. ECIRMAC also taught me that not everything always runs smoothly or perfectly funded, but that with devoted workers and volunteers, an amazing service can still be provided to the community….I feel this will be true for wilderness therapy as well.

I did not do an honors project. The thing I was most proud of was working with Maria every week on her English…she started with little to no English- and by the end of the year she knew some basic grammar, a good amount of vocabulary- and more than anything, she gained a comfort with listening and speaking more in English and she also became comfortable with asking questions. I was so proud of her!

How would you answer the questions I pose to all students requesting a letter of recommendation? If you knew that you were going to be asked those questions later, would you approach your classroom and community work differently? Finally, do you have a hobby or passion that you too could turn into a career path?

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