Intern Spotlight: Zherah Collier

Name: Zherah Collier
Hometown: New Haven, CT
College and Major: American University, International Relations and Public Health
Tutoring Site: Dixwell
Clubs: Math Club I, II, Creative Writing Club, Nature and Science Club
Favorite Childhood Book: Goodnight Moon and Strega Nona

I encountered New Haven Reads as a first grader struggling with speech and the pronunciation of common words. My mom, a teacher for the New Haven District, learned of the program from a colleague and was eager to ensure that her children received the necessary educational support. My older siblings and I were always excited to visit the book bank each day after we attended a tutoring session at the Audubon Street location. I still have plenty of the books I acquired over the years; but, as I grew older, I was happy to donate my books to local organizations such as churches, preschools and even family and friends for their children’s collection.

I will always thank my parents and my former New Haven Reads tutors for encouraging me to read, their aid greatly improved my speech which guided me to develop a true love for reading as well as learning.

Furthermore, about fourteen years later, I am now employed by New Haven Reads as a First Niagara Foundation in partnership with KeyBank Intern. During my interview for the position, I felt nostalgic and keen to learn about the new programs that are offered and see how tutoring has evolved over time. I learned of fascinating online resources for one-on-one tutoring sessions like EPIC, an electronic library that has millions of books for the readers to use during read aloud or choice time. Lexia is another educational website which uses games to strengthen grammar and other reading comprehension skills. Outside of tutoring, the students participating in New Haven Reads have a variety of stimulating clubs to choose from; beginning with, math, origami, nature and science, creative writing, chess, arts in all forms and music—I know they are in good hands. Ultimately, I was intrigued to see how New Haven Reads adapted to online instruction for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since I’ve started the internship, each day has been awesome. My weekday begins with prepping lesson plans for math club I and II with my Dixwell team of interns as well as site directors—by mid-week, I am helping volunteers with their clubs. In the beginning, I was anxious about my performance as math club leader considering how important the Common Core exam standards are for today’s elementary students; although, after a few weeks I began to feel more comfortable since I knew my team fully supported me. My favorite part of the week is tutoring. I enjoy getting to know my students and being their personal reading buddy. It warms my heart to see how excited my tutee is when she logs onto Zoom or when it’s choice time because we get to play our favorite game “draw and guess” which is played on our whiteboards similar to Pictionary.

My time as a New Haven Reads tutor has been a rewarding life experience and it’s exactly what I needed, to devote my summer to an effective, fun, and unforgettable educational non-profit. I’d like to thank the First Niagara Foundation in partnership with KeyBank for making this internship opportunity possible, the New Haven Reads staff for being the heart and soul of the organization; lastly, all of the supporters within the New Haven community. You have all played a phenomenal role in making this summer a pleasant one.