Reflection from an Evening Tutor

Holly Smirl shares a reflection about working with her student Jica’h in the Evening Tutoring program at Family Matters.

When I first saw the flyer to recruit volunteer tutors for Family Matters posted on our church bulletin board, I did not take much notice.  As I passed by this flyer each week, I began to feel like it had been placed there just for me.  Despite my reservations of whether I had the time to commit, I called Family Matters and asked about the tutoring program.   As a former teacher, I knew I had something to offer Family Matters and I knew that I could find the time in my schedule for something this important.  After my visit, I was also so impressed with Family Matters that I felt excited and privileged to be a part of this special organization…an organization that cares so much for the neighborhood youth that they support them with afterschool clubs, evening tutoring, summer camps, teen programs and so much more. 
The rest is history.
I have been tutoring at Family Matters in Rogers Park for almost seven years now.  I have been tutoring the same young man for almost that entire time.  I started tutoring Jica’h when he was in second grade.  He is in eighth grade now and preparing himself for the transition into high school. 
Jica’h is a truly fantastic kid.  With his strong family bonds, his hard work and the support of Family Matters, he has developed into an exceptional young man.  I originally began tutoring Jica’h in reading, and now we work on all subjects… including homework!!  Jica’h and I have “conquered” math percentages, reading comprehension, the Vietnam War, and science projects.  Most recently, we have reviewed Jica’h’s unit on the Civil Rights Era.  We even leave a few minutes of time at the end of our tutoring sessions to play foosball.  He beats me every time; although it is a great way to bond… and feel like a kid again!
Jica’h has become like a member of my family.  He knows my children and husband well, and we often go out to eat or spend time as a whole family.  We have a wonderful relationship with Jica’h’s mom and dad, too, and we feel so special to have attended many of his birthday parties, basketball games and family events.  I know that the bond I have formed with Jica’h and his family and the bond that he has formed with my family will be life-long.
I am thankful each day that I answered the ad that I saw hanging on our church bulletin board seven years ago.  By being a volunteer tutor at Family Matters, I have had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people who care about others, and have increased my family size.  It is an honor to be part of an organization that REALLY IS changing lives.  I can testify that this is true because the relationship that Jica’h and I share has been life-changing for both of us.
Holly Smirl