Community Voices - Ashley Hale

Posted by Daniel Murphy on September 24, 2015 in Community Voices

Copy of Ashley HaleAshley Hale is a fourth year, Dual Degree student majoring in Economics and Trumpet Performance. She was born in Oakland, California but is immediately from Seattle, Washington, where she began playing the trumpet in 7th grade. In her time at Oberlin she has been involved in many non-profits in the area by way of the Bonner Scholars Program. She is currently one of the coordinators of Music Mentors, a position she's held since her freshman year, and is a tutor for the Ninde Scholars program as well as at The Backspace - an after school activity center for middle and high school students. She has one more year until she completes her degrees here and is looking forward to seeing what life has to offer after Oberlin.

Q. Could you start with a description of what you’re doing?

Music Mentors is a student-run organization where we take students in the College as well as the Conservatory and we go to Langston Middle School to give private lessons for free. Basically the way it works is – let’s say I’m a music mentor – I go into the middle school, check in at the office – like sign in as a visitor or whatever – and then we go to the band room during their class – so between the hours of 8AM and like 10:30AM – and we take out one student, or you can work with groups if you want a group of students, and you work with them for the whole class period, which is about forty minutes. Usually that assignment of the student is done by the teacher so like: “I have this one student who is having like trouble reading this music or whatever” and you’re like, “Oh yeah, I’ll help them out” so basically, that type of thing. Time commitment is really low; we ask that our tutors go in – our mentors go in – once a week for one class period a week, so it’s literally like a forty minute a week time commitment. It’s pretty early in the morning; now we actually have some offerings for after school and at the high school which are a little bit different times and we’re still kinda working that out. I don’t actually think anyone is utilizing that so far, but it’s been offered this semester. We also try and have meetings at least once a month – kind of – for them, just so we can see each other and see who’s actually doing the program and bounce ideas off of each other because we are like new teachers: we don’t necessarily have it all figured out. So we try and bounce ideas off of each other.

 

Q. In what ways has this work with the community affected your college experience?

I think it’s definitely shown me…or made Oberlin less of a bubble for me. So working within the community is like ‘Oh it’s a real place, this is a real thing, it’s real life right here’ as opposed to ‘I’m just here to go to school’. I know so many other kids – I’m also a Bonner Scholar, so I do a bunch of community service work – I also work at the Bridge program, the BackSpace, which is another thing. It’s kind of like an afterschool program, and I’m there as a tutor, so I’m supposed to be helping kids with their homework and stuff, but we don’t enforce that – so I can’t force them to do their homework – so really what I’m there to do is be there if they need some help, but I’m also there to play games. I know all the kids around here and I go to Cat concerts and I’m like, “Hey!” when I see the kids, you know, and a lot of those kids I actually knew before I started working at the Bridge – which was this year actually –due to Music Mentors, and I’ve seen them kind of grow up through the whole middle school process and stuff.

Q. What are some notable learning experiences you’ve had as a result of this work? Specifically with the Music Mentors.

A. Specifically with the Music Mentors, just the fact that I’m getting teaching experience is a big thing, which I think I’ll be doing in the future in some way or another, if not professor-wise, just in my regular everyday life. I think I’ll be doing some teaching. I think this is cool, kind of a way to throw myself into those situations and see how I handle it. I’ve worked with a million different types of students, with a million different attitudes, and I think that’ll definitely prepare me for the future.

 

Q. Why do you think it’s important for College and Conservatory students to be involved with the Oberlin community?

I think it’s important just because we ARE in the community. Literally, you know? We’re in the community of Oberlin, not just going to Oberlin College and Conservatory. I think there’s definitely that disconnect between the students and the people that actually live here for life. And I think it doesn’t really need to be like that, you know? It’s also just these cool opportunities for us, you know, and on both sides, this sort of symbiotic relationship here between the Conservatory, College and just the regular people that live here. So I think it could be beneficial for everybody if we all collaborate and do certain things.

 

Q. Did you find it difficult to get involved with the community? What advice can you offer to students who want to get involved?

No. I think there’s a lot of resources in terms of where to start. One of the biggest ones is the Bonner Center that has just a million and one resources, whether it’s the Bonner Wiki, which has a whole bunch of different sites available that you can work with, or just walking into the office and going, “Hey, I’m interested in this.” And they’ll be like, “Hey we can hook you up with this person or this person”. They have a lot of contacts…everything is with the Bonner Center. And also I think there’s a lot of things with kids, so if you don’t like kids that’s a thing…But in general, I would start at the Bonner Center and also probably Career Services? They probably have some connections with outside of Oberlin, if you’re trying to do that type of thing.

 

Q. What motivates you to pursue and continue your volunteer work?

Well, one is I’m a Bonner, so I HAVE to do it, but then aside from that, I think the experience is, particularly with working at the BackSpace, which is also the Bridge, which is why I keep interchanging them – the kids are there, and they don’t HAVE to do anything, so it totally changes their attitude about life. I’ve worked as a tutor before in the schools and they don’t want to be there, they don’t look forward to that, so the image is so different, but at the BackSpace it’s like, “Oh yeah, I’m here to play games!” and all that stuff, so I think it’s the attitudes of the students that definitely motivate me to go back. They’re crazy and they’re funny and all of that, so I think I have a good time. Then in terms of – so in that way it’s kind of them, you know? But then in terms of looking at myself, I think I’m benefitting from this too. I think I’m getting personal skills like mediating conflicts and things like that, that I think are just good skills to have, not necessarily for a job but just for life in general.

 

Q. Do you have any additional notable responses from the community partners that you work with that you can remember? Like whether they vocally responded to the support you’re offering or anything like that?

A. Well, Mr. Gnizak is the band director at Langston. He always tells us, me and the mentors: “Oh, we just love that you’re coming in, we really appreciate everything you’re doing,” and if you show up late, like if you say “Sorry I’m late,” he’ll be like “What are you talking about, you’re early, the fact that you’re even here…” So we get that. Also students sometimes say it, but not really. We hear reports from Mr. Gnizak, like “Oh, when you didn’t come yesterday they were all asking about you, like ‘Ashley was supposed to be here three minutes ago, where is she?’” So it shows interest but, you know, that typical middle school kid isn’t going to be like, “I love when you come in here on Wednesdays!” So I don’t think I’ve received anything like that, as opposed to the one time I was like, “They don’t seem very enthusiastic.” I told Mr. Gnizak that, and then he told them that and made a big deal about it and then the next week when I came in, they were all running like, “I wanna go!” And I was like, “I don’t know if this is genuine.” But that was the first time I had ever had any real enthusiasm. But I think maybe they appreciate it. I guess we’ll never know.

 

Q. Is there anything else you want to say about your work, any message for people who want to get involved?

I think it’s very easy to be involved and even if people are the slightest bit interested, I think they should at least try it. The worst that could happen is, “Oh no, I don’t like kids,” – that’s fine, at least now you know! You go through life like, “Okay, I think I would be cool at that” and then you get there and then you fall flat on your face and in a real world situation, it actually matters, whereas here, you have multiple years here, you can test out different things cause there’s a million different things to do, and just get involved. I think it’s really beneficial for everybody.

 

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