Why I Think I’ll Be a School Volunteer Forever
By Susie Kaeser
Yesterday on my walk home from Boulevard Elementary School I
ran into Hope (this is not her real name but it is what she represents to me),
a first grader who I tutored last year as a Many Villages volunteer.
She was late for school but when she spotted me her worried
face lit up and she opened her arms for a hug, something she has come to expect
as part of our work together. As quickly
as we met, we departed on our separate ways.
Here was the reward for my work as a volunteer: the smile and affection
of a lovely young girl who is facing many hardships in her daily life and in
her search for academic success.
Hope and I have a serious relationship. I was there the day
she figured out that when you sound out letters slowly and then quickly you can
make words. It is a remarkable discovery that made her excited and proud every
time we met. Her success touched my
life. We are connected forever.
Education is a very human process. The Many Villages
tutoring program organized by Reaching Heights, places and supports volunteers
in each elementary school in the CH-UH district. By increasing the personal
attention to individual learners, Many Villages helps our schools respond to
something educators know very well but our legislators seem to ignore: children
are individuals. They come to school from different places with different
levels of readiness and support, and different personalities. They learn in
different ways and at different speeds. Their brains work differently.
Something that is obvious and easy for one child can be a mystery to another.
Attention and encouragement and practice help. Patience,
time and concern give individual learners some of the fuel they need to
persist. Volunteers can provide that extra stuff that allows for individual
difference in a policy environment and structure that all too often expects
Hope, like the more than 350 other children at Boulevard, is
special. By volunteering within my
neighborhood school I have the good fortune to be an active ingredient in this
school’s efforts to treat her that way.