Zoe Wulff, now a freshman at Vassar College, spent her high school years tutoring at the Presbyterian Community Center, in her hometown of Roanoke, VA. The Presbyterian Community Center (PCC) is “a ministry designed to help our most needy neighbors through prayer and a wide assortment of mission activities.” One of these activities is an after-school tutoring program for kids and youth in the area. Zoe’s youth leader put us in touch with Zoe so that we could find out more about the work the PCC is doing, and specifically, how the youth from Covenant Presbyterian Church of Roanoke is involved there.
Zoe told us she volunteered as an after-school tutor at least once a week during all four years of high school. She specifically worked with the elementary school program, which was set up so that each child had one tutor assigned to him/her for the whole school year. Zoe said the tutors mostly just help with homework, but there are also some extra reading and math activities, and the last 15 minutes of the day are always set aside for some play time.
She told us she decided to get involved at the PCC for several reasons. Her church, Covenant Presbyterian, was already actively involved there, and her mom and some of her friends had also been tutors. Zoe also said, “I liked working with kids outside of the community center and did a lot with other organizations working with kids, so it’s just something I knew I enjoyed; and you know 4th grade homework is hopefully not too hard when you’re a sophomore in high school, so I thought I could help in some way, even if it was just, you know, simple math.”
During her 4 years at the PCC, Zoe was able to work with one 10 year old student for 2 years in a row, which she said was a relationship that taught her a lot about breaking several different kinds of boundaries. Not only did this relationship break down barriers of age and socioeconomic status, but they also together learned to overcome mental barriers that would have kept the student from succeeding. One memory that stood out to Zoe was when the little girl got so frustrated with a problem they’d been working on that she crawled behind a TV to hide from Zoe. Zoe said, “I had to work with her and talk her down…and together we were able to figure out why it was so frustrating for her, and a better way for her to do it…We kind of had to start over a lot with how we approached things…I just remember feeling really proud of myself in a way, that I was able to get her to calm down and not feel so frustrated, and then continue to work and not just shut down and not do anything for the rest of the day.”
This relationship also taught Zoe about the boundaries in our educational system that keeps some students from being as successful as others. Zoe said this student, “learned a little differently from some of the other kids,” so a lot of her job as her tutor was to figuring out how she learned and new ways to approach things. Because she learned differently, Zoe said the student “had a lot of trouble getting the right set up in school for her learning,” which opened her eyes to “the inability of the school to provide for [students with different learning abilities] what they needed, and just how easy it is for people to be looked over in the way our education system is set up…Something that was really important for me to learn was not to look down on other people because they learn in a different way because they can still learn, you just have to help them figure out the best way to do it.”
What are youth in your community doing to break down boundaries of any type? Let YMCo know!
As always, we’ve got a study guide to use with your youth. Check it out here!
Be on the look out for next week’s blog post about Emma, another Covenant Presbyterian youth who served at the PCC!