“I always give them my life story because I was one of them at one time,” says Donovan Pierre about the students he serves as a Communities In Schools site coordinator.
Pierre is 28, and since he started working at Communities In Schools of Miami, Fla. in his early 20s, he has quickly become someone who students look to as a role model.
In the students, Pierre says he sees himself – a young person who grew up in a low-income neighborhood, fighting the statistics that pointed to him dropping out of school. When he graduated from high school, he decided to take a year off. Pierre’s grandmother, a former AmeriCorps member, encouraged him to explore his post-secondary options by joining AmeriCorps. As an AmeriCorps member, Donovan was connected to Communities In Schools of Miami in 2004, where he served for one year. Many Communities In Schools affiliates utilize AmeriCorps members as mentors and program managers.
After his year of volunteering, Pierre pursued full-time employment and found a position working in a warehouse. He didn’t feel as fulfilled as he had as an AmeriCorps member for Communities In Schools of Miami, so he quit his job and returned to the affiliate as a full-time volunteer. After two months, Communities In Schools of Miami insisted he join the team as a staff member.
“If it wasn’t for Communities In Schools of Miami, only God knows what I could have been into or where I would be now. I am really grateful to Communities In Schools for saving my life and helping me save the lives of others,” said Pierre.
The young man started working as a part-time data entry specialist, but over the years his position evolved into a site coordinator for an after-school program. In this role, Pierre recruits tutors to help serve hundreds of students each year. Most recently, he recruited 34 tutors to work with the 130 students who attend the after-school program and another 300 students in reading intervention at six at-risk elementary schools.
Pierre found that he could connect with his program’s older students through one of his favorite subjects – history. When students arrived at the after-school program, Donovan says he would help them finish their homework, and then introduce them to geography or historical events that he never learned as a teenager. Mixed with discussions about the celebrities and music his students liked, Donovan quickly became a positive figure in his students’ lives.
“I would tell these stories, and they would be amazed at how young I was but how much I knew. At that time, they decided to try to become like me,” said the site coordinator.
To this day, Pierre says that students he worked with when they were in middle school visit him during their college spring break, telling him that if it wasn’t for him, they wouldn’t have graduated. It is those students who fuel his work each day.
“I am just doing what needs to be done. I am not the best, but I do the best that I can, and ensure that if a child has a need, then that need is met.”