It is an inspiring undertaking: Share the joy of education through their service to others. That is the mission of the tutoring program four seniors not only are continuing this year but also are enhancing.
The new student leaders of the after-school program at Beginning & Beyond Child Development Center, a long-standing community partner with Gibbons, are (pictured right) Amanda Karazin ’19, Gabriela Shorten ’19, Caroline Kelly '19 and Joey Taffe ’19. These seniors are carrying on a tradition begun nearly five years ago by the program’s founders and newly-minted Gibbons Alumnae: Gabriella Pistone ’18, and sisters Cassandra Lupia ’18 and Victoria Lupia ’18.
The alums started the program when they were freshmen at Gibbons. They did so to provide an effective way to give disadvantaged youngsters the help they deserve to succeed academically, as well as to make a difference in their lives, the founders explained in an interview last year.
Now, the four current leaders are continuing the program, which caters to four- to ten-year-old students, for the same reasons. There are other reasons, too. They said in their time working with the students over the last few years, they fell in love with the program, which they added has also been personally rewarding.
“It (the program) becomes a chance for the children to create relationships that may not be available to them at home,” said Gabriela Shorten ’19. “Seeing the children every Thursday is like a committed relationship, that hour becomes a big part of your life.”
For Joey Taffe ’19 the program is about witnessing the growth of the students. “Being able to see that your volunteer hours are directly benefiting the education of a young student has been a very rewarding experience,” he said.
Amanda Karazin added: “I love seeing the children at Beginning & Beyond grow up and learn from us.”
Over the last five years, the program has also grown, increasing from just a few volunteers to over 30 volunteers each week. Last year, clubs as well as sports teams also volunteered at the center to teach the youngsters about robotics and drama, among other subjects. That continues.
The current leaders also say they foresee that the program will continue to grow and pointed to a few new initiatives planned for the coming year. “We are emphasizing the relationship between the tutor and the student beyond academic assistance,” said Joey. “Many of the children come from tough backgrounds, so our tutors have a great opportunity to be positive role models for the children and build strong relationships with them over the course of the school year.”
There also is an opportunity to bring fun into their lives, said Amanda. “Right now,” she added, “we know we are going to have some sort of Halloween party for the children, and hopefully Christmas, too! We always focus on their academics, so it's fun to get to play with them sometimes.”
Gabriela added: “I wanted to be a leader this year so that I could encourage other student volunteers to come and oversee making sure that all children feel content with the high schooler that becomes their buddy.”
Commenting on the continuation of the tutoring program, Director of Outreach Ministry Gary Meyerl ’82 said: “What a joy it is to watch these seniors continue this tradition and offer an invaluable service. Through their leadership the children we tutor at the Beginning & Beyond Child Development Center receive the additional support that they need to reach critical developmental milestones.”