Twice a week, volunteers tutor children at our Faircliff Plaza East, Fort View and Webster Gardens locations. Last Tuesday, I visited Webster Gardens and despite the cold rain, I found it well attended by both students and tutors. Children ranged in age from pre-K to early high school. Some children were drawing or reading with tutors, while others were wrestling with vocabulary lists and pre-algebra. When I asked if I could take photos, their faces instantly lit up. As much as I could, I tried to avoid distracting them but the novelty of a guest and the promise of a snapshot proved to be irresistible.
Soon enough, Resident Services staff members Nkem Offer and Tyisha Jones expertly calmed the kids down with the promise of snacks if they continued to work diligently. I maneuvered my way around tables covered in phonics books to sit with the kids and volunteers while they worked. Many of the volunteers had been visiting Webster Gardens regularly, and their consistency was essential to the children’s growth and development. Instead of having to be introduced to a new tutor each week, explain their homework repeatedly, or face the loss of a volunteer friend, kids are given an environment of stability and support that is extremely conducive to their educational goals.
At the same time, one of the most important things the volunteers bring is their companionship. Before snack time, the kids started shuffling papers back into binders and zipping up pencils in their pencil cases. After two cookies, someone suggested playing a guessing game called ‘Headbandz.’ Although miming is technically not allowed, kids were wagging their tails or pretending to eat hamburgers to help each other guess. Games like this often don’t seem as educational as a phonics or math game, but kids are learning teamwork, sharing, and communication skills. Learning to describe an object without saying its name in a game is no different than defining a vocab words using context clues—which was one fourth-grader’s homework assignment.
Learning is best accomplished in a supportive, nurturing and safe environment. Our tutors are smart, committed, and compassionate, but even if you’ve never tutored before, you can still make a difference in our community by being a friend! Learn more about our tutoring programs or other volunteer opportunities by contacting Kate Stritzinger at [email protected]!
Photos and text by Christine Janumala