When I returned to Chicago after a year in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, I found myself settling into a neighborhood I barely knew: Rogers Park. Aside from visiting my sister when she studied at Loyola, teaching English to a woman who lived off the Jarvis stop, and attending a few theater and music performances off the Morse stop, I never had a reason to spend much time in the neighborhood.
Jenn Kloc shares a reflection about working with her student Arlene in the Evening Tutoring program at Family Matters.
When I discovered Family Matters, I knew it was a perfect fit for me — an opportunity to learn more about my new community, and, as an enthusiastic advocate of volunteering, an opportunity to get involved.
I decided to volunteer as a tutor/mentor in the Evening Tutoring program where I was matched with Arlene: a sweet, spunky and smart fourth-grader who, like me, lives in Rogers Park. Building a relationship with Arlene has been a welcome exercise in remembering what it’s like to be a fourth grader. She gets excited about reading mystery books and daydreaming about Hawaii. She jumps at any opportunity to play math or science games on the computer, and she always compliments my nail polish. I helped her plan and execute a fourth grade Science Fair project, and she proudly earned an A-. She is a hard worker and a serious student, so I never have to prod her to focus on her assignments. During our time together, she concentrates on the lesson at hand, eager to grasp it and move on to more fun things like solving the mysteries we choose to read from Family Matters’ library.
Working with Arlene is also an opportunity to support her parents as they navigate her academic world. Arlene and her family speak Spanish at home, and when she had parent-teacher conferences first semester, I went along in case her dad wanted assistance communicating with her English-speaking teacher. I also use my Spanish language skills during parent meetings at tutoring so that Arlene’s parents are able to contribute to and understand the goals we set at Family Matters. And Arlene’s parents have told me about some of the best places to shop and eat in my neighborhood, making it feel more like home.
Overall, my experiences working with Family Matters have been fantastic. The time I spend with Arlene benefits me on a personal level just as much or more than it supports her in excelling at school, and for that I’m really grateful. She has taught me the ropes of my Rogers Park home and showed me what it means to her to live in the community.
Every Monday evening, I get to be a fourth grader again, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
By Jenn Kloc