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Lasting Relationships at IMPACTO

Desde La Base- Winter 2012

IMPACTO is one giant relationship,” laughs Program Director Lucia Torres. “Healthy relationships are vital to the program.” Whether a student is in IMPACTOTutorkindergarten or a high school senior, both staff members and volunteers work very hard to connect with them and identify their needs.

According to Torres, the value of establishing trust-based relationships with the program’s kids can be seen at every level. “Our volunteers undergo a very thorough orientation process, and we only work with volunteers who click with our students.” Being able to relate to students is especially important for IMPACTO’s tutoring volunteers, says Torres, “because students may be self-conscious about lacking certain skills.” Tutoring volunteers must not only teach but also encourage students, because emotional support is a necessary facet of build-ing up their confidence.

“We had one math tutor who had a hard time

"When the kids know they're supported, they are more motivated, energetic, and happy"

connecting with the students at first, but he didn’t let that discourage him,” states Torres. “He established a sense of friendship before diving deeply into tutoring, playing basketball with them after tutoring sessions and even attending their music recitals in his free time.” He eventually moved out of state, but his students still talk about him and the impact he had on their lives.

Torres also states that the relationships kids form with volunteers and staff touch theirlives far beyond IMPACTO’s doors. “Sometimes, the kids will receive postcards from previous volunteers who have either joined the Peace Corps or are travelling abroad. These simple gestures enable them to see the possibilities that exist beyond their own community. If someone they’ve developed a relationship can travel the world, suddenly it doesn’t seem impossible for them to do that, too.”

SmilingIMPACTOAs for staff members, they oftentimes become like older siblings to the students. Torres says that when a student approaches a staff member to confide whatever might be affecting them in their personal life, they in turn provide that staff member with a valuable tool for identifying any underlying issues that might be affecting their progress at IMPACTO. And on several occasions, IMPACTO staff and Proyecto staff have pulled together to help a student. Recently, several staff members shared their resources with a senior applying to various colleges and also helped her prepare for an interview with Harvard. Such friendship and care ensures that every child knows they have a support system within the program.

States Torres, “When the kids know they’re supported, they are more motivated, energetic, and happy. There is no way we could do our jobs without having a connection to our students. We could never just do things mechanically and expect to help them grow.”

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