That Family Feeling

Quality education is so much greater than books, calculators, pencils, and white boards.

Quality education requires quality relationships with students because healthy relationships foster community, confidence, hope, and belonging. At SDRT, we prioritize building relationships and trust with our students and their families as one part of our efforts to bridge educational gaps for our students.

A dedicated tutor, Anke, tells us the story of why she started volunteering with SDRT and that ‘family feeling’ she gets at SDRT.

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It was my time to give back.

That’s what a former SDRT volunteer said in an interview as she was talking about her experience as a refugee in San Diego. She found help and mentors in times of great need, and when she grew into a position to support others, she decided to give back. I listened to her story on the radio, and it stayed with me. I too felt it was time for me to give back.

At a time when I needed help, I had teachers and caring adults who made it possible for me to access higher education. Thanks to those people I pursued a career as a marine biologist which allowed me to see and experience natural beauty I could never have imagined. My career also gave me an appreciation of what it means to settle in a foreign country, although under very privileged circumstances. So, I signed up for the New Tutor Orientation and was sold.

I love the positive energy at SDRT, how well it is organized and how the children’s well-being, happiness, and opportunities are always at the center. I tend to arrive early, not only to beat the afternoon traffic, but also to watch the children come in. There is excitement in the air; there are smiles; and there is cheekiness. It is a safe haven for them, and they are excited to learn and to behave (most of the time).

I have been working with the same student from my first tutoring session and have seen her blossom 🌸 . When I first started supporting her, she was learning her letters. Now, she reads, writes, adds, and subtracts. It is beautiful to witness her growth. It is not only her achievements at school that touch me; I also get to know her as a person. I love seeing what makes her laugh and sparks her curiosity. I know her cousins as well as her brothers and friends. In the process of giving back, I have made friends with volunteers and other SDRT students. So when we all meet at Bike Day or when we hike around Lake Poway and make s’mores together around the grill, it feels like showing up for a family gathering rather than a volunteer event.

Though it was my time to give back, my “giving back” has given me plenty more.

About Mimi Lee

Mimi started volunteering for SDRT in 2016 and currently serves as its Middle & High School Director. She met her husband at SDRT, and they live together in City Heights. She has her Master's in Education and teaching credential in English Language Arts.

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