Last Monday, the long-awaited, much-anticipated literacy tutoring program – Let’s Read! – began. What six months ago was merely a dream finally took place at the Stedwick Community Center: thirteen families – mostly Latinx, mostly from the Watkins Mill Elementary School zone, and mostly not sure what to expect – arrived with their bright-eyed 2nd graders in tow. After checking in and getting a snack, each of these 7- and 8-year-olds received a full hour of one-on-one tutoring from an adult volunteer in the community, a stranger they had never met. It was awkward at first, for both student and tutor, but with a commonly understood mission – learning how to read – each pair wasted no time in getting started on their short vowel sounds: “a-e-i-o-u.”
And once again, I heard a quiet but now familiar refrain among the parents, heard when we first contacted them, reiterated when they registered, and now repeated as they watched a middle-aged or retired volunteer giving their child their undivided attention. It went something like this: “thank you.” It wasn’t the ‘thank you’ you hear at the end of a business transaction which basically translates: “are we done here?” Nor was it the sort of ‘thank you’ heard when a door is held open for someone which means “I realize you’re going out of your way and I feel obligated to acknowledge as much.” No, this was a different ‘thank you’ altogether. It was a carefully thought out and unhurried ‘thank you’ that unmistakably communicated “I really, really appreciate what you’re doing here and am humbled to be a part of it.” The same feeling shared by the volunteers, the staff, and director: what an honor to be investing in these precious lives.
And so, dear supporter, tutor, donor, reader, helper, whoever you are and however you have contributed to this pilot project, I pass on this humble expression from the parents’ lips to the deserving recipients in our GGC community that have given and I know will be giving so much this year: thank you! You’re making a difference.