When Aajahne Seeney was young, she couldn’t get enough of the classroom during the day, so after school she would gather her siblings together and play teacher, complete with a schedule and her own curriculum. Any time her mother went to the store, Seeney would ask her to buy books and supplies for her “students” to use.
Now Seeney is a freshman at Delaware State University, planning to major in elementary education and minor in Spanish. She hopes to bring an empathetic approach to her professional work, drawing from her own challenging experiences. Her family moved a lot when she was young, and she struggled with the difficulties that come with being the “new kid.”
Still, Seeney felt she had it better than some of classmates who were bullied for not having nice clothes or not speaking English fluently.
These memories and a passion for elementary school education are what led Seeney to take the recommendation of her child development class professor and apply for the Every Learner Everywhere Student Fellowship, becoming one of 10 students selected to be a Spring 2022 Fellow. During the six-month program, Fellows work with one of the Every Learner network partners on a project that aligns with the students’ academic and professional interests. The program’s goals are to:
- Give minoritized, poverty-affected, and first-generation students the chance to network with professionals in each student’s area of study;
- Capture feedback from students on their experiences with digital learning; and
- Encourage the students to help design future iterations of the program.
At the end of the program, the Fellows will have the opportunity to formally present what they’ve learned.
Sources of inspiration
Seeney’s Fellowship project is to partner with Every Learner Everywhere to help make its work in post-secondary digital learning as inclusive as possible.
“I’ve seen what other students have gone through, and I think it can affect you in school every day,” Seeney says. “And not just poverty level, but anything that’s going on at home that affects how kids are able to focus at school — relationship issues or where you live.”
Being bullied has made Seeney protective of others. “I knew teachers were not always in control of what was going on,” she says. “They didn’t really do anything. I feel like that’s a very big driving force behind why I want to be in that field.”
Seeney often spent time with an aunt who is a teacher at Dover (Delaware) High School. Seeney would visit her classroom, watch her teach, and help her aunt grade papers. It was her aunt’s ability to connect with students on a personal level and help them succeed that inspired Seeney.
The COVID-19 crisis struck during Seeney’s junior year at a charter high school. Everyone had Chromebooks for their homework, and no one had experience with online classes, which she feels impacted her learning.
“I like to have one-on-one time with my teacher,” Seeney says. “When you’re in the classroom, teachers walk around and they can help you, but online, it wasn’t really like that. When we were sent into breakout rooms a lot of them were inactive because the teacher wasn’t there. We were supposed to be learning in groups on our own. So I found myself not learning as much as I would usually learn inside of the classroom.”
A learning center for the community
As an Every Learner Everywhere Fellow, Seeney has two goals. She wants to share her life experiences so that they can be used to help future college students in an increasingly digital world. She’s also working to find student perspectives on digital learning experiences that are culturally relevant, inclusive and challenging, and to publish those in a blog on Every Learner’s website.
A long-term goal is to someday create and operate an after-school childhood learning center for minoritized and poverty-affected children in her hometown of New Castle, Delaware, where she has volunteered as a tutor and organized food drives.
“Although there may be a plethora of obstacles and distractions, poverty and being a first-generation college student should never be an obstacle that one has to face alone,” Seeney says. “I have experienced this first hand. Sometimes it may feel as though nobody at school understands. This is what inspired me. I want children to feel included.”