A Tutor's Privilege
The Bay Area is one of the most diverse parts of America. I’ve been lucky to grow up in a place accepting of people with different identities. I’m surrounded by rich cultures and have been introduced to many different ways people experience life. It has opened my eyes to the privileges that I hold. Though growing up I learned that privilege is related to skin color, gender, religion, and sexual orientation, when I reached high school and started volunteering with a non-profit organization, I learned that there are other ways that privilege presents itself.
Giving back to my community and helping others have always been prominent values in my life. I always understood the importance and significance of these values because of lessons learned from Judaism. In high school, I started to feel like I hadn’t really done my part to help. As a seventeen-year-old, I didn’t know what help I could bring to the community, but I knew I wanted to do something. I researched different volunteer opportunities in the area, and volunteer positions at schools kept popping up. It was perfect. I love working with kids, and I thought it would be a good experience for me.
I applied to be a tutor at New Child Fundamentals (NCF) in Berkeley, CA. I'd previously been a tutor at a charter school in Richmond, CA, but I had no idea how little this would prepare me for my new position. My first day on the job, I showed up fifteen minutes early to meet with the staff member I’d been emailing. I drove to the address and found myself standing in a pediatrician's office, completely confused. I thought that I’d walked into the wrong place, but I hadn’t; New Child Fundamentals is a non-profit organization that is partnered with a medical private practice.
In our short meeting, I learned that my work would directly help children who might not be able to get it otherwise. My supervisor, a pediatrician, explained to me that these students, for medical reasons, either missed a lot of school or had different learning styles. NCF is a place for parents and students to get the support they need.
After the meeting, I met my student. We clicked immediately, and although it was only the first session, we both learned so much. I learned different ways that I could improvise to keep the student engaged, and the student learned lots of math! I started working with the student every week, and they became part of my life. How they were doing in school and medically became my concern. Every meeting was filled with so much laughter. I wanted the student to feel like we were on the same level, and to feel like we could just have fun together. We never spoke much about their medical conditions. I wanted to create a space where they could focus on whatever they wanted to.
Until I met my student, I didn’t understand how much I took health for granted, both mine and my family’s. I have never had a serious medical diagnosis and neither have any of my family members. I wake up every morning with everything working exactly the way it is expected to. I am grateful every single day. Working as a tutor opened my eyes to a privilege I didn’t even know I had. Working with my student is something I will cherish and never forget. I took health for granted because I'd never had to worry about it in my life. I had that privilege.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.