Volunteering at Glen Haven, enriching many communities

Volunteering+at+Glen+Haven%2C+enriching+many+communities

A room full of excitedly screaming children, snippets of conversation in several languages besides English and constantly overwhelmed volunteers and tutors. Welcome to Glen Haven after-school tutoring.

Every school day from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., Guilford College and University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) students tutor children at the Glen Haven community center. The children all live at the Glen Haven apartment and housing complex, and almost all of the families living there are refugees and immigrants. The families’ nationalities range from Burmese, Nepali and Bhutanese to Vietnamese, Liberian and Latin American.

Glen Haven community center is an official AmeriCorps site with one full-time AmeriCorps worker, one part time worker and one student intern: Guilford senior Adrienne Sibrizzi.

The center was started in 2003, when Guilford students began tutoring in an empty apartment at the Glen Haven housing complex with the help of Mary-Ann Bush, who had been independently tutoring refugee children. Guilford students have been instrumental in sustaining the services offered by Glen Haven to the families and children.

The center offers services besides tutoring in conjunction with UNCG’s Center for New North Carolinians, which helps refugees resettle.

The Guilford and UNCG students work one-on-one with students on math, reading and science homework. Beyond helping the children to complete assignments, the tutors establish bonds with the students. Week after week, the children run up to greet the cars of tutors as they pull into the driveway and bombard them with hugs, demands for help, endless questions and requests to play.

Sibrizzi, an Education and Spanish double major, is the site coordinator for Glen Haven and has been volunteering there every week since her first year at Guilford. Sibrizzi tutors at Glen Haven every afternoon and has recently started a group meeting for Latino mothers on Friday evenings. She has worked on building strong relationships with the parents of the children.

“Now that they know me, they’ll come to me and ask for help,” said Sibrizzi.

There are currently ­­­­11 Guilford students who go each week to tutor, and they all express their love for working with the children.

The children at Glen Haven have left a strong impression on first-year Nicole Gaines.

“The kids are just so funny, and, for the situation they’re in, they’re so warm-hearted,” said Gaines. “It’s great to see how they improve over the weeks and how comfortable they get with you.”

Some of the children prefer to stay at the center even after they have finished their homework. Oftentimes they do not have anyone at home to take care of them because their parents are still at work.

Tutoring each week at Glen Haven not only provides the children with role models and positive reinforcement in their schoolwork, but also gives Guilford students the chance to get off campus and to witness and engage with a different community.

For first-year Rachel Ulrich, working at Glen Haven has been beneficial in many ways.  Not only has she been able to get to know the kids, but she has also become a Community Scholar. Being a Community Scholar allows her to volunteer at Glen Haven for several hours each week, which essentially translates into work-study hours.

“I really felt like I needed to get a work-study position so that I could help my parents with paying for tuition, but I also really wanted to do service in Greensboro,” said Ulrich.

Rene Haile began working full-time as the Glen Haven director as an AmeriCorps ACCESS member at the beginning of the school year. The ACCESS project is focused on aid for immigrant and refugee communities. For Haile, one of hardest parts of starting her work at Glen Haven was introducing herself and her services to the community.

“I had to engender trust with the families and children,” said Haile. “As they saw me constantly day after day, they began to know that I was there as an advocate for them.”

Haile went on to say that she faces the challenge of figuring out how to appropriately meet the needs of the families and their children.

“My job is to empower,” said Haile. “Balancing what I do for them and what I help them do is difficult.”

Volunteering at Glen Haven or any other site in Greensboro offers students the chance to form meaningful relationships with people off campus. Simultaneously, students work to inform the greater Greensboro community about our school’s commitment to our city and its people.