Jeremy Paxton is interested in education reform, maybe policy. He is also interested in English Literature and music. And now, after completing his first service learning experience, he is interested in that, too.
The 30-year-old was enrolled in Philosophy 101 and Education 202 when he learned about the service-learning component required for each class. Initially reticent, Paxton didn’t take any time at all to recognize the value of service learning.
Working with children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, Paxton quickly learned that these kids wanted to learn in spite of the challenges they faced. Paxton, who met with the children twice a week, found them to be hard workers.
“School for them has got to be 10 times harder than school is for me – but they came each time of their free will and they were very dedicated,” Paxton said of the elementary and middle-school age
children he tutored at the Jackson Park Apartments in Shoreline. “I think we often underestimate them.”
“I think service learning is a vital part of the college experience.”
In fact, a fourth-grader provided a defining moment for Paxton – the decision that education reform would be his career focus. The young boy was excited to show Paxton the books he carried in his backpack every day so they would be available at any time.
“He had a book for every hour of the day, it seemed,” Paxton said with admiration in his voice. “I believe he had a total of eight (books) in his bag. One was to read at recess, one at lunch, and the others throughout the day.”
Not only was Paxton impressed with the boy’s intense interest in reading, but the fact that his family had emigrated from Somalia, and English was not their native tongue. “Can’t get more inspirational than that,” Paxton said.
Paxton said that the experience gave him a feeling for the places where he feels the educational system falls short... “This (experience) has inspired me to really try to make a difference,” he said.
The former Tucson resident would like to incorporate service learning into his work someday, whether it is in a classroom or in a business environment. He says he’d like to find a way to teach young people that school is not about trying to fit people into cookie-cutter lives, but about helping them become more socially aware so that they can build a new and better society.
“I really would love to make sure that service learning becomes a part of my life and a part of the lives of the people I work with,” he said.
Paxton is earning a transfer degree at Shoreline and plans to complete a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies at the UW Bothell. He and his wife are considering joining the Peace Corps for a time before moving into a career role.
“My service learning experience was instrumental in my decision to pursue this degree.” (Education Reform)