If you attend River City, you've probably heard Daniel talk about the needs of west Humboldt Park and our church's desire to partner with Cameron Elementary School. I love the vision the church has for west Humboldt Park, specifically for Cameron, so I met with Ann Healing to find ways to get involved. One month ago, I started tutoring five 1st graders every Thursday for one hour in reading. The students I was placed with have the lowest reading levels in their class and therefore need the most one on one attention. I love being in the classroom and working with my five students but every time I leave my heart breaks more than the time before. I only have each student for 12 minutes once a week and there are 20 other students in the class who I don't get to interact with in that way. I'm thankful they go to recess as reading time ends which gives me an opportunity to say hi to the other students, give hugs and help them put their coats on.
As I walk out of the school my head is flooded with thoughts. Some positive regarding the hugs and smiles that were given and received and praises to God for the acceptance and favor the students, teachers and administration have shown me, but most thoughts are around how there are 950 students at that school and I only have time to see five for 12 minutes at a time. Twelve minutes. I get overwhelmed that I have kids who can't read and I see other kids who so desperately need more love and attention from positive adults. I wonder if me going for one hour a week is even worth it and what difference will twelve minutes with five kids even make. It's hard to not feel hopeless.
Yesterday I decided to change things up a bit and had the privilege of being one of the judges for Cameron Elementary School's Science Fair. Student from grades K-8 participated and it was truly inspiring. The younger kids did class projects and as the grades got higher, there were either individuals or pairs for each project. I walked away impressed, encouraged and with new knowledge about gum, balloons, plants, burning wood and fabric! The students were a delight to interact with and I couldn't help but be proud of each one of them and all that they accomplished.
After we completed our judging duties we headed to the Library for lunch. I sat with two women. One whom grew up in Humboldt Park and attended Cameron Elementary when she was young and the other who has a sister that is a teacher at Cameron. They asked how I was connected and I told them I attend River City. They didn't know what that was so I gave them a quick run down on our church. I then told them that I tutor once a week in a 1st grade classroom. Turns out that one of the women sitting at the table with me is the mom of one of my students! There are 950 kids at Cameron and I know five. There were 15 judges for the Science Fair and I happened to sit at a table with the one who is the mom of my student. We had a mini parent/teacher conference and she was so encouraged to hear that her son was making progress. She is an involved parent and wants the best for her son and I'm thankful to have met her and had that exchange.
Later when I was reflecting on the day I couldn't help but be so thankful and offer praises to God for orchestrating all of that. Each week I walk into Cameron hopeful and leave feeling hopeless and here God is showing me that He is in Cameron and He has begun a great work in that school and neighborhood. My nature is to want to walk into something and be able to fix it all and God is teaching me that all it takes are willing people who can make a difference one opportunity at a time. One student at a time. One book at a time. One hug at a time. I would greatly encourage everyone to find a way to start getting involved with Cameron. Don't wait until our church is across the street. There are many needs today and it's as simple as being willing and available to serve. God will do the rest.