VolunTutor, a new club that I started at RKYHS this year, aims to provide volunteer tutoring services to children from all types of backgrounds. As a freshman, I wanted to create a club where high school students could help underprivileged children whose education was lacking due to the pandemic. With the help of a teacher at RKYHS, Rabbi Richard Kirsch, I contacted different schools to see if they would be interested in the program either online or in person.
After many attempts with various organizations and programs, Rabbi Kirsch and I got in contact with the MLK Youth Center, an after-school program that was excited about the prospect.
VolunTutor took its first trip in November of 2022 and has taken many trips since then. Members of the club volunteer at the afterschool program at the MLK Youth Center in Bridgewater, New Jersey around once a month. On these trips, not only do the tutors mentor and teach the children, but they also expose the students to different aspects of Jewish religion and culture. The RKYHS volunteers have taught over 50 children, who have not had many opportunities to meet Jewish students and learn about Jewish customs and holidays. During Chanukah and Purim, the volunteers told the curious children how and why these holidays are celebrated. By giving these children positive and meaningful experiences, the student volunteers provided them with a deeper respect and understanding of diverse perspectives, especially in this age of deceiving information and widespread propaganda.
The children come from a variety of backgrounds and have a range of experiences. Through their continuous interactions with the children, volunteers find commonalities and form bonds with the kids despite their cultural and racial differences.
When asked what he learned from the trip, one VolunTutor member stated, “I learned that I should be grateful for everything we have and always try my best to make a kiddush Hashem. Many of the kids were [not well] educated but interested in Judaism, so it was important to give them an understandable explanation of Shabbat.”
Student volunteers also encourage the children to fully understand and complete the schoolwork they are doing since many of them don’t when the RKYHS volunteers are absent. In addition, the VolunTutor members encourage the children to get out of their comfort zones and off their devices. They play new games and activities with the kids, helping them to build new skills and engage in physical activities. This helps to build relationships between the volunteers and the kids by sharing their interests with one another.
Another VolunTutor volunteer stated, “I loved learning the unexpected similarities between myself and the kids.”
Overall, the VolunTutor club is a great example of how students can make a positive impact in their community. By volunteering their time and skills to help children in need, the club members are not only helping the children grow and learn but also gaining valuable experience themselves. The club is an excellent opportunity for students to develop leadership skills, build relationships and make a difference in the world.
By Eden Fusman, RKYHS sophomore