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October 10, 2018
While Varsity Squash at Harvard has allowed me to support my team under stress, I have also learned its meaning through service. Co-directing Harvard’s PBHA Recent Immigrant Term-time Enrichment (RITE) volunteer mentoring program for refugees and recent immigrants has given me a closer understanding of their struggle to integrate. During one Saturday morning tutoring session, I noticed a very quiet high school girl sitting alone at a desk. When I walked over to offer some homework help, she pulled out a ruffled book from her pocket, tentatively placed it on the table, and opened it to the first page of this self-help guide on “Finding Love”. Wherly, a Haitian refugee, spoke to me in her native Creole and French but struggled with English. I let her read the English words out loud, corrected her, provided occasional translations and encouraged her throughout.
To help her feel comfortable, I offered Wherly a donut and some juice. As Wherly savored the offering, she told me about leaving behind her country and her dream of becoming a doctor. Toward the end of the session, I thought about the challenges she, and other students like her, face. Their schoolteachers must move forward in teaching the rest of the class, but here, we could bridge that gap. Students like Wherly show me that support means teaching and building confidence in those who need it most.
Upon arriving on campus freshman year, the squash team provided me with a welcoming and supportive environment. I wanted to share a similar environment with others through tutoring. At RITE, Harvard volunteers tutor high school students every Saturday morning and occasionally at local high schools for after-school sessions. Most tutees are Haitian and Central American and many of our tutors speak French or Spanish, which allows us to develop a deeper connection using their native language. We emphasize English reading skills and necessary academic vocabulary for success in other subjects. At RITE, we ensure that student-tutor groups remain the same throughout the year to create a comfortable support network. The students are often initially doubtful about college admissions, but through homework assistance, conversations in English, standardized high school exam and SAT prep, we strive to help them realize their potential.
Through squash and tutoring, I learned to provide support for a group and how truly special it is to succeed collectively.