Honors Residential College tutors Waco students for love of neighbor

By Lauren Tidmore

Love of God. Love of learning. Love of neighbor. This motto, for which the Honors Residential College is founded on, has transcended mere speech and moved a group of honors students to action within the East Waco community.

Every Wednesday afternoon, the group of HRC volunteers work in conjunction with Restoration Haven, Inc. to tutor and mentor impoverished children within the Estella Maxey housing complex.

While on the HRC volunteer trip to El Salvador, which occurred during Spring Break, students volunteered with artist Fernando Llort’s school and did crafts based on Llort’s work with the students. The volunteers saw first-hand the poverty within the community and served those in need. But Schlosser said what they experienced reminded them of the need in Waco.

“We face equal or worse poverty right in Waco,” Schlosser said.

Being members of the Honors College, Schlosser said they felt tutoring would be the best way to use their talents for service. Before leaving the airport to return from El Salvador, Mason, Ohio freshman Andrea Schlosser sent an email to Urban Missions coordinator Carole Meriwether to organize their outreach project in Waco.

At Restoration Haven’s afterschool program, the HRC volunteers work with the children on an individual basis on homework assignments, STAAR test preparation and reading.

“Our goal is to have one-on-one for kids that just don’t have that,” said Restoration Haven director Shirley Langston. “A lot of our kids need that one-on-one attention.”

Schlosser and Denton freshman Sarah Pitman, another HRC volunteer, said children swarmed them the first day they entered the tutoring room two weeks ago.

“You can tell they just don’t really get loved on at home,” Pitman said.

As a child and family studies minor, Pitman said she enjoys working with the kids.

“I really feel like I’m finally being useful,” she said.

In a specific incident this past Wednesday, Pitman was helping a young boy complete a word search to learn his assigned spelling word list. After working at it for a while, the boy began to find the words without any help.

“The look on his face whenever he finished one of the word lists was just priceless,” Pitman said. “He was just so self-satisfied. I’m sure that he knew in his head that he could do, but he finally knew it in his heart that he could do it.”

It is those moments of individual improvement that the HRC volunteers and Restoration Haven workers said they find rewarding. Langston said she has tried to be a constant source of educational and moral support for the children at Estella Maxey. Likewise, The HRC group said they hope to provide service to the children each week.

“We want to be building relationships,” Schlosser said. “We don’t want to be people that just show up and then disappear.”

Langston said many adults within the Estella Maxey community don’t have a high school education. She said the children see the coming and going of dependable relationships within their own families.

“These kids have enough abandonment issues,” Langston said.

Restoration Haven currently has 75 students enrolled in the afterschool program. On average, 35 children participate in the program each day. Langston said continuing operation and providing more services to the children is difficult because of few funds.

“We run this whole operation on about $50,000 a year,” she said.

Langston said Restoration Haven receives plenty of time donations from Baylor student volunteers and plenty of supplies donations from area churches. However, more funds would provide the organization with the opportunity to start a computer lab and buy smaller tables for the younger children to work at.

HRC volunteers and Restoration Haven workers said they find the one-on-one tutoring and mentoring model to be affective and vital in the educational furthering of the East Waco children.

“With these babies, it’s different,” Langston said. “They’re still young. They’re still movable. They listen. If we keep working with these children, from this age all the way up to high school, maybe even into college, I feel like we could change the generation of poverty in this community.”