The day I found SEAL I was excited because I missed my high school days tutoring kids, and SEAL seemed like it might be similar to what I did then. That being said, I’ll admit that I did have a small fear that SEAL might be just like every other volunteer experience I had ever had–while fun some days when working with a child that was eager to learn, there would always be kids who just didn’t want to read. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The first day I started volunteering, I met my first buddy–a sweet, but also sassy and opinionated girl. She seemed a little unsure at first, but by the end of our first session, I could see her true personality, which is incredibly unique and creative. We read Roald Dahl’s The Witches. As we read, I could see her confidence in her reading abilities grow. Not only does she seem to improve every week, but her creativity seems to be expanding each time, too. Whether we are discussing what we would do if it was our child who had been turned into a hot dog or we are drawing what a human-jellyfish hybrid would look like, we end up not being able to stop laughing at some point during our time together.
Every time we read, I get to watch her learn to love reading even more than she did when we first met. At first all she wanted to do was chat, but now if I spend too much time talking, she’ll point back to the book and tell me that we need to continue reading! It’s an incredible feeling to realize that in giving such a small amount of my time each week, I could’ve already made this much of a difference in someone’s life.
Not only do I get to read with one buddy, but I also get to spend time with a second one each week! Although shy at first, my second buddy quickly grew more comfortable with me and reading. I learned that she recently moved here from Afghanistan, and because of that, she faces an obstacle that most kids don’t: a language barrier. Despite this, she is the most determined kid I’ve ever met. No matter how many words she struggles to pronounce, she NEVER tires out from reading because she just loves it that much. The week after she returned from spring break, she had the biggest smile on her face. I asked her, “Why are you so happy today?” She gave the simplest, yet most unexpected answer: “‘Cuz I’m back in school!” I had never seen someone–especially that young–so excited to be learning. After reading some Dr. Seuss books that day, she informed that even though I only came on Mondays, I could come back and read with her anytime I wanted. I just smiled, feeling so lucky that I got to read every week with such enthusiastic and loving girls.
To anyone thinking that SEAL is just another volunteer organization, it is so far from that. SEAL is different because we partner with non-profits, like Communities in Schools, that make an effort to find kids who not only need the help, but who also truly want that help. Not only that, but we make sure that we find volunteers who are excited to help these kids improve their reading AND their love of learning.
When I started volunteering, I knew I was going to be helping kids who struggle with reading, but I never realized how many kids there are just in the Dallas community who can use our help. I feel so proud to be involved in an organization that connects college students to elementary kids so that we can improve and strengthen our community.
– Kyra Rozanitis, SMU volunteer