Monday, May 14, 2012

Last Day of Read for Life

Whew, last week was the wrap up for the literacy program that I have coordinated for the year. When I started this year I had no idea what the literacy program would come to mean to me and the community or really what would evolve from it. It has been such a joy to work with all the tutors and the school. As a group there has been 1,303 volunteer hours served by 48 different tutors at various points through the year. We started off the year with 43 students and had 35 students stick it out till the end of the year. (A lot of families are on the move around here so it's hard to retain students in general.)

On our last day I took some time to just look around at the program to observe and reflect over the year. This may have been a bad idea..... as I looked around I realized how much of a difference this program has made in the lives of all those involved and I had to hold back tears thinking about it.

I saw excited kids happily eating their ice-cream and pizza playing sight word bingo with their loyal and faithful tutors who have nurtured their growth over the past 8 months. Students asked their tutors if they will see them again next year. Parents told me Monday and Wednesdays were their child's favorite day for school because of this program, "they want to skip every other day, but not the days they have Read for Life!" I saw children giving hugs as they departed and tears on a few of their faces mixed in with smiles. I witnessed growth in the children's literacy skills and simultaneously their self-confidence. Tutors shared stories of their students growth and the funny things along the way. I saw the compassion and of the tutors for these students. A student exclaimed "this is the best day for Read for Life EVER!!"

I observed the certificate ceremony in the 2nd grade room, where one of the tutors invited her police officer husband and friend to come visit the group. The students got to ask them questions about being an officer and the officers stressed the importance of making good choices and to keep up with school and reading. Then they each received their certificate and a hand shake from the officer and a Magic Tree House chapter book to take home. "Someday, I want to be a police officer," one of the students shared.

I realized that some of the most challenging students were actually the students who cared the most about the literacy program even though I would have sworn they didn't care about it all. I received hugs from students and when I asked them what is that for they simply said, "I will miss you," and I will miss them too. 

I thought about all the heartbreaking stories I've heard from the lips of some of the students, parents, or tutors and then I thought about how knowing them has changed me. I will miss them all and I'm sure I will think of them often since in a lot of ways they are like my first classroom. It's hard to let them go out into the world, where I wont be able to check in with them to make sure they are safe and growing academically and otherwise. But I will be sending up many more prayers for them because at the very least I can do that.

Taking all these things in my heart, at the end of the day with the empty ice-cream bowls and pizza boxes thrown away,  I turned the light off to the art room for the final time. 


  1. This seems as if it was bittersweet, as I'm sure you have mixed emotions. I know it's difficult leaving them but think of the amazing difference that you were able to make in their lives. Plus, your NYC journey starts soon! :-)

  2. Reading your observations recalled my own and made me cry in sweet memory.