Community Tutoring celebrates tutoring students Suraj and Sumina Regmi and their accomplishments over the last four years.
Suraj and Sumina came to Family Matters four years ago, after arriving in the Rogers Park neighborhood through the United States Refugee Program. Their family was among the more than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees who were exiled from Bhutan in the 1990s due to their Nepalese ethnicity. Suraj and Sumina’s parents were forced to flee their home in southern Bhutan, crossing the border into Nepal by way of India. With so many refugees flooding into Nepal, several refugee camps sprung up along the border, becoming home to these refugees for over 17 years. Suraj and Sumina were born in one of these camps.
In 2008, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees determined that the only viable solution for this refugee population was resettlement in a third country, because the Bhutanese government would not allow them to return home, and the Nepalese government would not allow them to integrate into Nepal. Suraj and Sumina’s parents immediately applied for the resettlement program; they arrived in Chicago in May 2008. Suraj enrolled as an 8th grader and Sumina as a 4th grader at Gale Academy. Shortly after the school year started, they connected with Family Matters through Jenn Bricker, a Family Matters staff member.
As newcomers both to Chicago and the United States, Suraj and his family were unsure of how to navigate the process of high school applications. Community Tutoring suggested that he apply to the Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund, an organization that provides eighth graders living in Chicago with four-year scholarships to private high schools throughout Illinois. According to Suraj, “Jenn approached me about the scholarship, and walked with my family through the entire process of applying.” He was selected as one of 100 recipients, out of over 1000 applicants, for the scholarship, allowing him to attend Northridge Preparatory High School. Suraj says the opportunity to attend a private high school, with rigorous coursework and a low teacher-student ratio, has made a big difference in his educational journey in the United States.
Suraj also cites the difference that evening tutoring has made for him in high school. He has had three tutors over the last four years and, while the tutors have been very different, he describes each one as patient, interested in his academic success, and able to explain school material in a way that he can understand. He says his tutors feel like family members – people of whom he can comfortably ask questions, and with whom he can joke around and feel relaxed. Suraj looks forward to coming to Family Matters each week for tutoring. “At school, you have to be there. At Family Matters, you want to be there,” Suraj says.
This past fall, Suraj was part of Family Matters’ first partnership with Chicago Scholars, an organization that supports high school seniors through the process of applying to colleges and universities. After spending several Saturdays with Family Matters staff working on college entrance applications and essays, Suraj attended Chicago Scholars College Interview Day on October 30, 2012. He was accepted at four universities in Illinois, one of which offered him a $12,000 scholarship. He is undecided as to which college he will attend in the fall. Regardless of where he enrolls, he plans to seek out tutoring in college. “I have had a great experience with tutoring at Family Matters, so I will look for it on my college campus, too.”
Sumina, now an eighth grader at Passages Charter School, recently received the news that she has been awarded the Daniel Murphy Scholarship. Sumina is thrilled with the possibilities she now has for high school, and is in the process of applying to several private high schools in Chicago for next year. She says she is eager to be challenged to grow academically and personally during high school.
As a participant in Evening Tutoring for two years, Sumina says the community aspect of the program is one of the best parts. “At tutoring, everyone is there for their studies. This makes it easier for me to focus on my studies, too.” Sumina says that the supportive relationship she has with her tutor, as well as the positive school environment she experiences at Passages, have given her the tools to ask for support when she needs it. “I’m not afraid to ask questions of my teachers now,” she says.
In addition to the academic growth Sumina has experienced over the last four years, she says that Family Matters has “helped me grow from the inside.” She describes the relationships she formed with members of the Teen Girls program through her participation in Family Matters summer programs over the last several years, and how special it has been to stay in touch with them by coming to Family Matters. She says that one of her favorite things is coming to visit the Teen Girls program and how “everyone screams and runs to hug me so much that I almost fall down the stairs.”
We rejoice with Suraj and Sumina in their myriad accomplishments!