LEWISTON — She’s logged hours playing one-on-one basketball tournaments with the kids at Hillview Apartments, winning every round, but three weeks ago, Jessica Igoe noticed they’d gotten better.
“For the first time they pushed back and I almost fell over,” she said.
The kids have gotten older. So has she.
After volunteering in more than a half-dozen local classrooms, running the Hillview after-school program and spending her time at one last campus/community field day, Igoe is graduating from Bates College this weekend.
Igoe, 22, originally from Lexington, Mass., has been a forward/center on the girls’ basketball team for four years. She’s an economics major, but, as a freshman minoring in education, she started working with a first-grade boy at Longley Elementary School.
“He didn’t have the language skills to even work on reading yet,” she said, and that challenge kept her going home to Google: Would this strategy work? This activity?
That classroom experience led to another, then, another. She’s also volunteered at Hillview Apartments all four years, helping kids with homework, then play.
“To watch them develop into their own people has been really cool,” she said. “It’s really been a meaningful part of my time at Bates. … It’s something you could never anticipate early on.”
Igoe was honored at the State House last month with the Heart and Soul Award by the Maine Campus Compact, which showcased four students statewide for involvement in their communities.
She’s off to Washington, D.C., next, where she’d like to work on education policy, maybe fall in with an advocacy group to research education reform. Igoe’s mother, grandmother and aunt are all teachers. That might be in her future, too. But first, there are goodbyes.
“It is really hard to tell (the kids) I’m leaving. I’ve been trying. They just don’t understand,” she said.
She’s counting the days down with some sadness. Igoe moves out of the dorm on Sunday. Before then, there’s time for a little more basketball and horsing around.
“We tried to have a water balloon fight last week,” she said.
“I got soaked, that’s what wound up being the problem. I wasn’t anticipating that. Enthusiasm at its best.”
Know someone connected to the community? Contact staff writer Kathryn Skelton at 689-2844 or [email protected]