One of my goals starting out the new year was to try out something new (and hopefully fun) every month. January it was making homemade yogurt - which is delicious, by theway. I thought for February I'd be trying out the luge hill in Negaunee, but as it turns out, my experience turned out to be quite different.
For the past several weeks I've been volunteering as a tutor for a local youth organization, working with one kid in particular who hasdifficulty reading.
Having spent most of my teenage years babysitting and my summers in college working as a counselor for a summer camp, I really enjoy working with kids and one of the things I miss having moved on to my full-time reporting job is that I don't get to be around kids as often.
While I do get to interview young people every week for the Our Youth article that also appears on this page, I really miss getting to know the kids - what their personalities are, how they approach problems, how they grow as they experience new things. Maybe it's their sense of fun, sense of adventure, being able to see new things in the world around them. I've always found it fairly easy to relate to kids, often easier than relating to adults.
So if you're a kid reading this, high five, I think you're pretty awesome. And if you're a grown up reading this, find the kid closest to you and tell them so for me.
Anyway, kids aren't generally a new thing for me. Being a tutor for one, however is. In college I worked as a tutor, but for other students my own age. While I'm used to talking to kids, reformatting my mindset to be able to talk like a tutor to a kid is taking a bit of an adjustment.
That and the fact that reading was never a particular challenge to me. I remember learning to read and stumbling over words, but most of all I remember wanting to read all the time. The kid I'm working with does not have that experience. I'm struggling to put myself in the same mindset, looking for ways over obstacles that I never encountered in my own childhood.
Due to this particular organization's privacy policies, I don't get to know much about my toutee's background, and in the long run, I think that works better for me. Right now, all I know is this kid has trouble reading, and that's something I can deal with and address.
Knowing more about whatever issues this kid might have won't make me any more able to help sound out words.
Sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed by global issues, even local events. How can anyone possibly fix anything that's out there in the world. But I think that's what volunteering really is - concentrating your energy on the one or two things you do have the power to change.
And if everyone does the same in different areas, that goes a long way to "fixing" the bigger problems, doesn't it?
Editor's note: Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org