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From Blah to Life

“I was feeling blah about faith and engagement with community. I wanted to invigorate that part of my faith and my relationship with God. I needed more than just work and family. Volunteering at Hope Horizon EPA has helped and I feel more life now.”

LaRena had been aware of Hope Horizon EPA for a while and was exploring ways to get connected. She was previously a middle school teacher before entering the field of professional development for teachers. She still loves students, especially middle school, and wanted an opportunity to be back with them again. Becoming a tutor seemed like a place she could quickly and easily jump in so she gave it a try.

As a tutor, she generally starts their session with some chit chat: how’s it going, how was your day, what’s going on at school, how about your family and friends, what homework do you have? “We go over what homework she has, we talk through each class, what she's working on, did she turn in last week’s assignment? Besides homework, we sometimes work on writing but mostly math. We take turns making problems for one another based on what they’re studying in class, and my student likes to make really hard problems for me to solve.”

"I’ve seen the student I tutor grow in courage and in confidence; she’s more willing to share her work, especially writing. We had fun with one particular writing prompt, where she could write about anyone. At first she was having trouble coming up with an idea, and we started talking about her brother. We ended up writing about him, how he does things like wear the same clothes all the time. We really got into it, even if it was a bit about all the things that frustrate her about her brother. It was fun to see her engaged with the writing project.”

Even though LaRena always envisioned volunteering in person, she started out as a virtual tutor because it was practical with her already juggling two young kids and a career. It was a way to see how it would fit with her schedule. The transition to in person tutoring started with a complaint from her student, “I look at screens all day. I’m tired of looking at the screen.” While it may have just been a ploy to get out of tutoring that day, LaRena said she could come in person, which wasn’t the expected response.

"It was an opportunity to show that it matters enough to show up. It was working out schedule wise and I knew I could carve out the space. I have really enjoyed being in person. She can’t hide her work, and it’s easier to flex when she doesn’t have homework. It also makes it easier to connect. I’m there to help with school, but I also value being present and building a relationship. Showing up and being consistent matters a lot and I hope that we are able to keep building our relationship. I’ve seen growth in her confidence, in her ability to be reflective, to ask the question ‘who am I,’ to navigate the journey of being a middle school student.”

We thank God for tutors like LaRena and many others who provide academic support and so much more to students in our programs. We pray that God would continue to bring life and hope to both our students and volunteers through their time together at Hope Horizon EPA.

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