Repair the Breach works to bridge educational gaps in Waco

Math is just one of the subjects local Waco students are being tutored in. Photo illustration by Katy Mae Turner

By Tyler White | Reporter

“Who are we without how we’ve been educated?” said Hanover, N.H., senior Harper Leigh.

This question, among others, is what motivated her tutoring initiative.

Repair the Breach is a tutoring initiative spearheaded by Leigh to help kids in the East Waco community. She is seeking help from Baylor students who want to help their community and be a part of this outreach initiative.

The initiative involves a group of volunteers meeting from 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays at Estella Maxey, a government housing complex in East Waco. During this time, volunteers help students with their homework and school lessons while also having the opportunity to assist the parents in GED and resume work.

In 2021, Leigh began mentoring children at the government housing complex in East Waco and has since recognized the need for educational support. She said many of the children are three or four grade levels behind their current grade.

One day, Leigh said she was helping a fifth-grader do her math homework in the car. They were working on basic math problems, and Leigh began to notice the deep educational gap in the community.

“I was trying to ask her, you know, what is two plus two,” Leigh said. “What is nine times three? And as a fifth-grader, she just couldn’t perform those functions, either quickly or at all. And so I just had this moment of being like, you know, she would come home, she has these failing grades, and the teachers are overwhelmed at her school.”

Leigh said she began to see this educational divide even more as she brought some of the students to Baylor. She would occasionally bring the children to play basketball at Baylor and be a part of the campus community.

“When you ask them, ‘oh, what do you think of Baylor,’ they don’t have a strong, good opinion about it,” Leigh said. “It seems a far-off place that’s unreachable and impossible. They think coming to Baylor is impossible for kids like them, and that deeply saddens me.”

Mo Guillory, community liaison at local church Mosaic Waco, is helping provide community support for the initiative. She said she wants this initiative to allow the children to no longer think of college as an impossibility, but an opportunity.

“Elementary school actually does matter, and this is why I’m taking this seriously,” Guillory said. “And [the children] see people who are also from completely different diverse backgrounds and can say, this is my walk, and this is how I got here.”

Guillory said she sees Repair The Breach as an opportunity to grow and spread within the community. It is something that she would want to see go beyond just East Waco and allow Baylor students to take the values of this initiative and disperse it into other communities.

“We start to see those little seeds being planted, and so right now we’re just in the process of how we plant the seeds and let other people water, to see how to use that to actually speak to everyone,” Guillory said.

Leigh said she wants the initiative to be an opportunity to interact and live life together in the community. She wants to encourage Baylor students to be involved because it is a life-changing opportunity.

“I would encourage anyone who’s kind of on the fence to see that investing in relationships, to build another person up, to sacrifice yourself so that someone else is changed and transformed for the better, it actually will transform you for the better, too,” Leigh said.

Guillory said this initiative provides an opportunity for the community to work together to build each other up. She said it’s something that brings together the Baylor community and East Waco in a powerful way.

“This is just the start of something to heal Waco as a whole and not just to heal one particular part of the community,” Guillory. “This is like part of Waco actually coming together to actually bridge that gap between community and church, but community and college community and all those things can coexist.”

Guillory said students at Baylor can play a vital role in this initiative. They can bridge the gap between the “Baylor bubble” and the community of East Waco.

“Baylor being such a prominent role in Waco right now and the growth that is happening,” Guillory said. “If Baylor could see that Waco is more than just a well-known college town but actually has so much gold within our neighborhoods and tap into the young lives who can be impacted by them just coming to spend an hour with them.”

Leigh said she hopes Repair the Breach will allow the community to share more compassion and allow people to desire to live life together. She said she wants those at Baylor and the community to desire to be a teacher and help their community to continue to learn and build up.

“Remember that the risk will change your life, not just theirs,” Leigh said. “That’s what I encourage people to realize.”