For the fourth service project in 2017, I decided to do something near and dear to my heart, tutor elementary school children. Can you believe it took me two months to find a place to actually volunteer? YReads, associated with the YMCA is the name of the program I chose. After I found a program, it took a full three months (or so) for me to be approved. I’d forgotten that working with children requires a million and one items: application, resume, three references, a webinar about not molesting children, and a background check. Sheesh! This is why I didn’t begin until April.
During April and May, I tutored children in reading. But, these aren’t just any children. Have you heard the term ESL? If not, it stands for English as a Second Language. These children attend one of Jacksonville’s designated ESL schools. I typically have the same two students at the beginning of the hour. One is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the second half hour, I tutor students who are Hispanic, mostly from Mexico.
My time with these children has been hopeful. Little kids are resilient and motivated in a multitude of ways. For example, the Congolese girl moved to the States two years ago. English is one of four languages she speaks.
“Where you from?” she asked on day one.
“I live here in Jacksonville, like you,” I responded.
“Noooo. Where you from???”
She’s so perceptive. Guess she’d wondered, as others have asked before, you not from ‘round here, huh? I ended up telling her that I was born and raised in Chicago and her eyes brightened. From that day forward, I knew Maya and I had bonded.
Week three she thought I wasn’t coming, and when I walked in the door, her face lit up.
“You’re heeeere!” she exclaimed.
“Of course Maya! I’ve been looking all over for you. I thought you weren’t here,” I put on.
I love children of all ages. It’s one of three things with which I have a natural ability. Therefore, tutoring for one hour a week wasn’t strenuous. And although I don’t know for sure what the impact will be, I suspect I’ve positively influenced Maya’s life in some way just by being there.
YReads is a state of Florida initiative; however, I’m sure your city and state has a similar tutoring program designed to support children’s literacy. Tutoring is a way to give back to your own community that is sure to yield high returns.
Have you tutored before? Do you teach or have you taught? Let me know what you think about this service project.
*Maya is a pseudonym.