“I think the first part of your life is finding your gift and the second part of your life is giving it back,” says Linda Kane, a longtime volunteer and supporter of local nonprofit, Children First/Communities In Schools — a philosophy that she puts into practice every day.
Children deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential, but for many local children, the burdens of poverty can be an impediment to success both in and out of school. Imagine a child who arrives to school hungry or perhaps without getting enough sleep the night before because of overcrowding in their homes. Or they aren’t receiving proper medical attention. These circumstances make it exponentially difficult for a child to concentrate on their schoolwork or even stay alert throughout the day— both during school and in after-school programs.
But with extra attention from community volunteers, children have an opportunity to overcome these barriers and improve not only their grades, but also their attitudes about school. Kane, one such community volunteer, has been a consistent and caring volunteer tutor at the Children First/CIS after-school Learning Center at Pisgah View Apartments and is helping change the lives of local children.
“I grew up in a family of six, and my dad worked in a factory,” says Kane. “We didn’t have a lot, but I grew up reading books constantly. Through books, I learned of worlds different than my own, and that there were so many possibilities out there.”
She decided to become a lawyer. After graduating from law school, she worked for many years as an attorney. But she also had a passion for teaching, so she went back to school to get her teacher’s certificate and taught for a few years at an inner-city school in Jacksonville, Fla.
In 2008, she retired and moved to Asheville with her husband. Not one to sit still, she immediately started researching volunteer opportunities. With a passion for teaching, especially children living in poverty, she knew she wanted to be a volunteer tutor.
She found out about the Children First/CIS after-school learning center program. This program, located in the low-income communities of Pisgah View and Woodridge apartments, is free of charge to families living in these communities and provides 40-plus elementary school-age children a safe-haven after-school environment with a healthy snack, homework help, enrichment activities and opportunities for parents to learn and become involved.
Kane immediately signed up as volunteer tutor at the Children First/CIS Learning Center at Pisgah View and has been coming to the center twice a week since 2008.
“As a volunteer tutor working with these children, you are planting a seed,” she says. “Hopefully, this seed will grow into a love of learning that will stay with them throughout their lives.”
As Kane is talking, a third-grader, Kimasia, walks into the room. Kane has been working one-on-one with her for the past three years. They read together, work on homework, and practice math skills. A struggling student, Kimasia relishes the focused attention. And Kane is a diligent tutor, patient when Kimasia gets distracted, but bringing her back to the work at hand.
“If 5+4=9 then what is 4+5?” asks Kane. After thinking it through, Kimasia gives the correct answer. “Good! That’s right!” she replies, as a smile of pride lights up Kimasia’s face.
Together they go through multiple pages of a math workbook, as the third-grader continues to grasp the fundamentals.
There is evidence that the love of learning is starting to take root. “Ever since Kimasia started working with Linda, we have seen not only an improvement in her grades, but also in her overall attitude about school and doing her homework,” says Children First/CIS Parent Involvement Coordinator at Pisgah View Learning Center, Lex Perry. “She was never that interested in doing her homework; now she can’t wait to go to Linda and start working.”
“You have to find your passion,” says Kane. “Reading and teaching is my passion. Paying it forward is my passion.”
When asked how she feels about Ms. Linda, Kimasia smiles shyly and says, “She’s a great person.”
You, too, can make an impact in the life of a local child by volunteering just one hour a week! Become a volunteer tutor at one of Children First/CIS after-school learning centers at Pisgah View or Woodridge communities, or at other Children First/CIS academic programs at local elementary schools. Go to www.childrenfirstbc.org and click the Volunteer button on the sidebar, or call 620-9091.
Jodi Ford is the outreach and engagement coordinator for Children First/ Communities In Schools of Buncombe County, a local nonprofit that believes all children deserve to reach their full potential. The organization helps achieve this by surrounding children and their families with supports that help them succeed in their schools, communities and homes. Whether that’s providing a food box, tutoring in school and after school, getting school supplies, teaching parenting skills or helping families meet basic needs, the nonprofit is there. Along with direct services, the organization advocates for policies that support families with local and state policymakers. To find out more, go to www.childrenfirstcisbc.org.