During the school year Merrick Ernst is a Preschool teacher at Head Start, so she is only able to serve during the summer months. This her second year at our River Woods summer program.
If you asked Merrick Ernst what she values most about the Everybody Wins! Iowa program she would say the connections that she has made with the students and other mentors.
Merrick is a 2017 graduate of Iowa State in Early Childhood Education with a background in Special Education. Outside of teaching and Everybody Wins! Merrick enjoys being outside: biking, skiing or snow-boarding. She will be going on RAGBRAI this year. She also enjoys connecting with other people in the community or dancing with the Italian Folk Dancing club. When not out in the community she is an active crafter around the house.
She says that she started to read with Everybody Wins! Iowa because she, “wanted to connect with children outside of the age range that she normally teaches as well as to continue to make other connections.” She says, “the thing that this program does well is to help to make connections.” She also says that, “I think kids need one-on-one relationship building as well.” She also values the ability that Everybody Wins! gives her to be connected in the community with other volunteers who share the same passions.
When asked what her favorite thing about being a mentor is she said “relationship building.” She really likes getting to know the children, getting to know who they are and hearing their interests. Merrick also says that she knows active listening is important because if you listen and get to know the interests of a child you will build trust.
Her advice for future mentors is, “to continue to build relationships with the children you are working with. It’s not until you have those relationships built that you can have those more open relationships and continue to move forward.” Merrick says that one of the most important things you can do is to have fun. “All too often everything is serious. Volunteering is meant to connect and build relationships with others and the community. I think when you volunteer you are striving to make a difference. That’s how you make a difference… by coming together with like interests and passions.” She ends by saying, “continue to get to know others, their stories and who they are. That’s most often when we find similarities with each other.”
Everybody Wins! Iowa thanks Merrick for sharing her passion for connection with the program.