So You Say You Want to Help:

Carver teacher & alumna, Dwana Caliste, publishes new book on service learning for volunteers and educators


by Cierra Sutton (GWC '18)



Even after completing and publishing her first book, Dwana Caliste (GWC ‘01) doesn’t consider herself to be a writer. Instead, Dwana sees herself as a teacher, a parent, and a mentor, particularly since returning to her alma mater to teach. “To go back home and teach [at Carver] gave me an instant connection inside of the classroom. I really have a cheat sheet, because I sat in the same seats that they sit in...My biggest joy from teaching is building solid relationships.”


Along with being an alumna and teacher at Carver, Dwana has mentored students in the Desire community for over twenty years as the Director of Programs at Thrive Ninth Ward (formerly Desire Street Ministries). In addition to mentoring young people directly, Dwana also coordinated and supervised hundreds of volunteers over the years, many from out-of-town service groups. She began to notice a pattern. “We often see people with hero mentalities who want to ‘save the day’ without putting in the work to cultivate real change. It’s really important to listen to the people who are already doing the work to figure out the best ways to show your support”.


With her experience in mentorship and education, Dwana decided to pour her unique insights into a book: a service learning manual for new volunteers and new teachers that would address some of the potentially problematic mindsets that materialize among those who are new to service work. Titled So You Say You Want to Help, the book gives volunteers strategies and approaches rooted in proactively building relationships throughout the community. Dwana wrote the book in stolen moments over the course of the last year and a half. She emphasizes the importance of relationship building in service work: “Those are the type of relationships that you get to build when you intentionally teach or you intentionally love or you intentionally fill the space with joy.”


Dwana’s advice to the upcoming generation would be to use the resources they have at their fingertips and leverage technology to learn as much as possible. The way Dwana sees it, now more than ever is the time for young people to use these resources and grow. Because of her experiences, she encourages others in the school system to continuously raise the bar and look for every opportunity for students to learn in the long run. What you have experience in may help the next person following your footsteps.


You can pre-order Dwana Caliste’s book here.