At an early age I was taught the importance of helping others. In high school I completed several required volunteer hours and in college went on an alternative spring break trip helping a Florida based non-profit. Even now as a professional I’ve continued my quest to “help others” - co-workers, students, faculty, and the community.
Four years ago a co-worker came to me indicating a Detroit elementary school needed supplies. I saw the opportunity for the Walsh community to lend a helping hand by hosting a collection drive. The teacher and I remained in contact afterwards. After some further discussions, she indicated she could use some help in the classroom. I suggested that we implement a tutoring outreach program and the rest is history. The Blackwell tutoring outreach program has taught me a few important things:
- Small investment reaps big rewards.
Considering the seven-hour school days, our one-hour twice a month visits are a very small portion of their schooling. However, no matter how much time is spent with the kids, I’ve noticed that it is very valuable. Just after just a couple of visits, the students begin to recognize Walsh volunteers. Upon arriving, they jump up with excitement and greet us with huge smiles. Seeing familiar faces can make a world of difference and making them understand that people care.
The program had many goals; probably the most important is to help raise the literacy levels. Thirty first graders with various reading levels is a lot for a teacher to handle. The tutoring sessions have helped the teachers ease their burden. Volunteers have been able to spend quality time with the students that really need additional help.
Even with just a handful of visits over an academic year, the children still remember us. Some who are now in higher grades have stopped in to say hello and visit. I’ve found that the impact has been profound, because they still remember us.
- Simple things make kids happy.
The students are thrilled with the simple things. This past October they came to the Troy campus for a Fall Festival field trip. It included: reading, coloring, our International students teaching a few words in a foreign language, and pizza lunch. One of the teachers called me that evening. She indicated they were excited about the field trip, but couldn’t stop talking about the pizza lunch. I never knew that something so simple would make 6 and 7 year olds so happy! The kids have a great perspective on life and I hope it takes them thru adulthood.
My favorite memories are from the Santa visits. The last two years staff and faculty have purchased/wrapped inexpensive toys for approximately 60 first graders. A few volunteers (and Santa) go to the school to drop off the toys in mid-December. The first year we organized it, a teacher told me that this would be the only gift some of the children would receive that holiday. It is a truly wonderful event that warms your heart.
As we continue on our quest to educate Detroit’s youth, I’m sure I’ll learn more. The tutoring has made me take a step back and reflect my own personal experiences. I appreciate the opportunities I’ve been given that much more. Bottom line, every little bit of our outreach program helps. No matter how big or small the activity or gift…it is priceless for the children.