Bonner tutoring sites serve to promote mentoring, community and acceptance

Whether through the Bonner program, a class or just because it is a great thing to do, many Guilford students choose to volunteer at one of the Bonner Center’s many tutoring sites.

“I went to France last year, and one of the reasons I considered not going was because I didn’t want to leave (Glen Haven) for a whole year,” said senior and Glen Haven project coordinator Christina Loubet-Senear.

As much as students love their work, it can be hectic with hundreds of energized kids in one space.

“It’s really loud, and sometimes the kids will be screaming,” said Loubet-Senear. “There aren’t enough tutors, so you’ll be trying to do multiple things with different kids at the same time. There’s a lot of conversation in other languages, so there’s a lot of added background noise.”

Through the chaos, the craziness and the lack of consistency, project coordinators and members alike cannot stop coming back to their sites, helping refugee and immigrant children from all over the world.

“They struggle with the English language, so they need help with their homework,” said sophomore and Elimu Tutor Ayellor Karbah. “We don’t do their work for them, but we teach them.”

For many, the attraction to their site comes from the bonds formed with the children.

“I reached out to two boys last year, and I talked to them about their interest in pursuing higher education after high school,” said Karbah. “I told them if they need help, I can help them look into colleges … and get them into the Bonner program and Guilford.”

For many, the connection is personal.

“Coming from a Hispanic family, I really see the struggle these kids have,” said a Latino Impact project coordinator who wishes to remain unidentified. “I didn’t drop out, but that doesn’t mean (they won’t). I see myself and I know I can do something.”

This year, many  became involved through a Guilford class or just because it is something they felt called to do.

“I didn’t have enough stuff to do (as a first-year), so I went to the fair,” said Loubet-Senear. “I wanted to be a teacher, so I figured why not do something with kids. They were amazing, so I just kept going, and now I’m site coordinator.”

After repeatedly being told that they are not good enough, the children are often hard on themselves.

“There have been a few times when the kids have been hard on themselves for being a particular race or speaking a particular language,” said first-year and Ashton Woods Tutor Elena Sippel. “One kid the other day was speaking Arabic, and another little girl told her, ‘You don’t speak Arabic here. It’s America.’”

The children often look up to their tutors for approval.

“It’s important to remind them that we are all really special,” said Sippel. “We all offer something really cool.”

For any Guilford student, it is easy to get involved.

Students can get in touch with Karbah or any other project coordinator.

“For any Guilford student, we would appreciate if they would reach out to those kids,” said Karbah.

Be warned: once you fall in love with these kids, it will be difficult to stay away.

“They chased the car down when we were trying to leave, (telling us) ‘no, you have to stay. Come back,’” said Sippel. “I feel compelled to go there every day because it does matter.”