Since June of 2013, Tyler White has served over 80 hours at THC’s Fort View location as a tutor and garden volunteer. He has become an amazing role model and source of support for the youth at this
location. We asked him to share some of his experiences and the lessons that he learned during his time spent volunteering with us. Here is what he had to say:
Tell us about yourself
A Midwesterner at heart, I grew up in Ohio and lived in Chicago and St. Louis for college and grad school. The typical 20-something transplant to the DC area, I moved here in June of 2013 for a research fellowship with the federal government (Department of Health and Human Services). I hope to eventually join the US Public Health Service, but in the meantime am enjoying all that DC has to offer!
What motivated you to volunteer as a tutor with THC?
I wanted to find a way to ground myself in the DC community. THC ended up being the perfect opportunity to get involved,
meet new people, and challenge myself to a new type of volunteer activity.
What do you like to do for fun?
Tutoring at THC of course! Biking, camping, socializing and eating would also be high on the list.
Talk about an inspiring moment you experienced during tutoring
One evening, one of the students seemed really frustrated and was acting out quite a bit. I spent the full 2 hours that evening just talking with him about what was going on at school. One of the other volunteers and I helped him strategize about ways to deal with frustration in healthier ways. The next week when he came in to tutoring he happily announced “I wanna work with Tyler!” It was great to feel like I was really building friendships with the kids.
Talk about a funny moment you experienced during tutoring
All the kids seem endlessly fascinated by how tall I am (6’4”). One particularly high-energy evening, they took turns jumping to reach my hand for a high five. In the spirit of kids saying the darndest things, one boy asked how tall I was and then responded to my answer by saying “yeah, you have a really big nose too!”
What are some of the challenges you faced while volunteering?
One of the most difficult parts of tutoring for me is understanding how to work with a student when he or she really is not in the mood to focus. I remember being just as easily distracted when I was a kid, but as the tutor, it can be hard to bring the student back to math or reading when their mind is on something more exciting or pressing. Sometimes it takes a short break to do or talk about something fun before the student is ready to work.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering THC?
The moment the light bulb goes off and I can tell that a student is really starting to get it. Discovering what the kids are learning and what they already understand is often a pleasant surprise.
What is a lesson you have learned through volunteering with THC?
Although I volunteered with many community organizations in the past, I had not had much experience working with kids in an educational setting before I started tutoring with THC. It was a little intimidating in the beginning, knowing that kids have a way of skipping all the fake pleasantries that adults use so much. I soon discovered, however, that the curious, creative, and (often brutally) honest minds of the kids at THC were a refreshing change of pace from the competitive mindset that sometimes seems to permeate the DC office environment. While I would like to boast that I learned how to better relate to kids and help them grow as individuals, I think most of the credit for my personal growth belongs to the great group of kids at Fort View. They reminded me that being childish is not necessarily a bad thing, and that teaching involves not just spelling and subtraction, but also mutual respect and understanding. Most importantly, they taught me
that almost any problem can be solved with a goofy face and a secret handshake.