Frannie, one of my advisees, and I were finishing our weekly check-in meeting.
“Have you been able to complete your homework since your WiFi router broke at home?” I asked.
“I finished most of it but last night I could not retrieve a file that I had previously downloaded for my English class. I told my English teacher this morning. He printed out all of my homework assignments for the rest of the week so I won’t fall behind.”
“I am glad that you are starting to take the initiative to communicate with your teachers when you run into unforeseen problems that you can’t control. They are very understanding and will continue to work through this problem with you.”
I opened up my laptop to check her current grades. Frannie was excelling in all of her classes.
“By the looks of you grades, we don’t have to talk about them. Sometimes I am shocked that this is only your first summer at TEAK. Frannie is there anything else that you want to discuss?” I asked.
She glanced away timidly. There was something weighing on her.
“Well, this summer has just been hard. All the work is difficult and when I go home, I can’t ask my parents to look over my essay or help me with math because they don’t speak English. And my little sister is no help because she is only eight-years-old and blabs about how she spends her days at the pool. I get frustrated sometimes because I want to do well but at home, it feels like no one is there to help me.”
“I’m sorry,” I uttered. “These summers are very challenging. It is hard when no one in your family can help you with your homework. You are doing extremely well in Summer Institute and are being brave by stepping out of your comfort zone and immersing yourself in this academic program. Most importantly, your friends, your teachers, TEAK staff, and I are here to support you in any way. If you need me to look over your paper or help you with math, come to me anytime. I mean it. TEAK is another family.”
“Thanks,” Frannie said as she smiled.
With that, she gave me a fist bump, jumped up from the bench, and walked back into the cafeteria to finish her lunch. I, on the other hand, remained on the lobby bench for sometime. Until that meeting, I could confidently say that I was once in the shoes of all of my advisees because I completed the three rigorous summers of academic enrichment that they are enduring now. However, I never felt alone because I had the constant support and help of my mom every step of the way. I realized that although TEAK Fellows are intelligent and curious students that beam with potential, all of us do not come from the same background. What bonds the students at TEAK and makes this program a fellowship is the ambition we have to strive for a higher education. Like Frannie, we get frustrated, but those periods of struggle and strain are our periods of great growth and strength.
Not only has this volunteer work allowed me to help students reach their potential as scholars and organize fun events throughout the summer, but it has pushed me to grow and learn more about a program that I have been a part of for over four years. I would like to sincerely thank the CSGC for providing me with a grant which I used for transportation purposes.