A story from Mark Phelps, KidREACH Tutor and Volunteer

For the past three years, I have been tutoring Ahmed, an Elementary School Student on Thursday night, and Gustavo, a Middle School Student on Tuesday nights at Jubilee REACH’s KidREACH, an evening tutoring program to serve the Bellevue Public School Students. When I started out, I could not have imagined what a great experience this would be.

KidREACH tutors arrives at 6-6:15pm on Tuesday and/or Thursday nights.  The start time is flexible as we realize that many of our volunteers will be coming in from work and other activities.  From then until 6:30pm, the tutors meet and share time together discussing their students and the program.  Our KidREACH Program Coordinator, Steve Thomas, does a great job in getting us the support and development we may need to help students.

At 6:30pm the students arrive and we have a light dinner from then until 6:45-7pm.  After dinner, we start to work.  This is typically helping students in reading, writing, and arithmetic.  To date, while I was not a math major, I have been able to hang in with them.  The evening ends with games starting around 7:30pm and going until 8pm.  These are typically board games during the rainy and dark season and outside activities when it is lighter and warmer.  I have been beaten many times in both!

What have I learned from KidREACH?  First, knowing how different and fun all the students are.  Ahmed, for example, is a bundle of energy who, given some direction, can do some amazing things.  More fun than a barrel full of monkeys! Gustavo, on the other hand, is quieter and more reflective.  For example, the other night, as we were each doing some silent reading, he saw that my book was about "The Cold War” and then I tried to explain what that was and why it was called that.  He had some great and insightful questions!

But more important than the academics is the relationship I have developed with these two young men.  For three years, I have had the joy of watching each of them grow and mature.  Being part of their lives has been a real privilege.  One example:  Gustavo loves football (and particularly, the SeaHawks).  He participates in Jubilee REACH Athletics and Activites, like after school flag football and loves to regale me with stories about their games.  Earlier in the season, he invited me to come watch and I did.  It was a close and exciting game well into the second half when, with Gustavo playing linebacker, the quarterback threw a long pass.  Gustavo leaped up and snagged his first interception and then, evading the entire opposing team’s efforts to yank off his flag, dodged and weaved 60 yards for a pick six!  Touchdown Gustavo!!  Can you guess who ran the last 20 yards down the sideline yelling “That’s my boy!”? (Not very dignified for a 61-year-old man).  The post-game celebration continued for “Gustavo Richard Sherman”!

Every kid should have an experience like this – where they feel they have accomplished something and, more importantly, where there is an adult there to share that experience and affirm them.  I am just happy that KidREACH put me in a place where I could do that.

But not all kids get that experience.  In fact, right now, there are a large number of students on a waiting list who cannot get into KidREACH because we do not have enough volunteers.  Every one of these kids has been recommended and referred by their parents and school as students who would benefit from the help that we provide.  To serve all of them, we need at least 25 more volunteers – to volunteer 6-8pm either Tuesday or Thursday (or even both!). 

So, we ask for anyone who is interested or might know someone who might be interested.  If you are not sure, you can do a “look-and-see” visit to us with no obligation at all.  Prior tutoring/teaching experience is not necessary.  We will train you and have a place for you.  Who wants to have some fun?

If you or someone you know might be interested, please contact KidREACH Program Coordinator, Steve Thomas at stevenmarkthomas@hotmail.com.  Do not delay – the kids are waiting!