Tutoring to Give Hope and a Future

A blog by Margaret Kazibwe, EPA Fellow.

The mission of BCM is to equip East-of-Bayshore youth to grow spiritually, gain life skills and develop as leaders so they have hope and a future.

When I read that, I think about my role as the StreetWorkz Coordinator and ask myself, “Margaret, are you doing this well?” This mission, which fits into one short sentence, comes with a lot of responsibility. 

Youth gather while on retreat in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Youth gather while on retreat in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

As I reflect on my students over this past year, I see their most evident need is to develop as leaders so they have a hope and a future. The word hope continuously grabs my attention. Some synonyms for the word hope are aspiration, desire, aim, goal and plan.

I want my students to be motivated to become more than they believe they can be and to make big plans for their futures. I want to help them realize they have potential beyond what they have been told and beyond what they have seen in themselves so far.

This fall, BCM implemented an academic tutoring program for the middle school students we serve in StreetWorkz. We realized the lesson of our founders—that academic help is just as important. In much of Jesus’s ministry we not only see spiritual healing, but physical healing as well. In Matthew 9 Jesus heals a paralyzed man and also tells him to go because his sins have been forgiven. His ministry was holistic not just focusing on the spiritual aspect of forgiving sins, but also the physical aspect of healing the body. So because BCM is a holistic ministry, we want to enhance them spiritually as well as academically. We care for the person as a whole; mind, body and soul. For many different reasons, some of our students are struggling academically. Because of this struggle they tend not to care about school all together.

What they do not realize is education is important because it gives us knowledge of the world around us. It helps us develop opinions and a worldview. Education helps us better interpret information as we apply it to our daily lives. In a spiritual context, education helps us understand the context of scripture and how to apply it to everyday life. This is what makes the educational disparity in our community so saddening. Did you know only 24 percent of high school students of color in the Silicon Valley graduate ready for college? This is according to a report by Aspire Public Schools. In East Palo Alto, the high school dropout rate is estimated to be over 60 percent. And, the Ravenswood City School District scored 712 on the Academic Performance Index, which falls short of the 800 statewide target. That is why adding the academic tutoring component to our middle school programming is important. We want to give youth more opportunities to grow, to be challenged and to be encouraged as they gain knowledge. Since adding the academic tutoring component to our program we have begun to see hope unfold and growth occur.

 We have only provided tutoring for a few months, but I already see a difference—especially in attitude—in some of the students who come to the program.

Sydney shares words of wisdom to a youth while she completes her art homework.

Sydney shares words of wisdom to a youth while she completes her art homework.

One day recently, I was helping one of our students with her math homework. She came in last week and told me she did well on the assignment. I told her afterward how proud I was of her and gave her a high five for getting all the problems correct. As she received my praise, her face lit up. She excitedly told me since school started back from Christmas break, her grades have gone up. I am overjoyed to see her understand something or have a huge smile on her face because I believe in her.

I want the students of StreetWorkz to leave from the tutoring and program nights feeling like they can do whatever they set their mind to. I want them to know that someone has confidence in them, even while they are still facing challenges.

BCM’s mission comes with a huge responsibility, but I believe through StreetWorkz we are making progress as we little-by-little develop leaders so they have hope and a future.