Individual & Community

by Alex P

(inspired by tutoring at the South Franklin Community Center)

A Lonely Individual

An individual when looked at on a large scale like the universe is insignificant, hardly worth noticing.  Even considering the scope of our own planet one human can’t change the world.  Looking at things on this scale is counter-productive and we tend to focus more on what we can’t do than what we can do.  When we look at things on a far smaller scale, the impact an individual can have is immense.  In a community, one person can completely change the way people think about life.  These people inspire others to change and become better.  The question isn’t whether or not these people exist, it’s how do they inspire people?  Each individual has their own way of doing it, but they all have one thing in common.  They care.  They care about the people they inspire.

My Introduction to the South Franklin Community Center

I walk up a set of stained stairs that have seen more feet tramp up and down them than I’ll ever know.  At the top I see a dingy room filled with quite a few kids and only a few adults.  I am here to help the other adults tutor the kids with their homework.  It’s something I’ve never done before and I’m slightly nervous. One kid who I’ve worked with is a little boy named Luis.  He is a rambunctious little guy who has been coming to the community center for over a year, so he knows the drill, but he still likes to tease whoever is helping him, especially the new guys.  Unfortunately, I am the new guy so he would complain and grumble about having to do his homework, but I found that even though I was nervous at first I began to feel like I could handle it and even have fun working with him.

I’m not sure where the confidence came from, perhaps it’s always been there and I’ve never known it.  Where ever it came from I quickly became comfortable around the kids.


When we had a bit of a lull in helping the kids I had a chance to talk to Tom.  He originally got the job at the community center when he was looking for a tutoring job.  He was offered the position of manager at the community center and he accepted.  He told me how surprised he was at the crime rate in the area.  He was also surprised at how casually the kids thought that the gangs were their only option.  He explained to me about the kids and the backgrounds that they come from.  The kids are mostly Hispanic and come from families that are unstable or where crime is a part of life.  Tom told me of how some of these kids live with only one parent because the other is in jail.  These kids tend to be lost in our education system.  They drop out and no one notices.  Tom told me how these kids don’t even think about graduating from high school.  They think only of joining the gangs. To them, this seems like the only path for them.  They see so many others do the same thing.  They just follow in their parent’s and friends’ footsteps.  They don’t know any better and no one has cared to show them what they can accomplish.


What does it mean to care?  Does it mean that we simply show interest in others?  Or is it something deeper than that.  How do we even come to care about others?  To care about someone is more than skin deep.  Simply showing interest in a person isn’t truly caring.  When you care about someone you want to know how they’re doing.  You want to help them through the pitfalls in life.  You give them advice.  You become their friend.  The list goes on, but that is enough to get the point across.  To actually care about someone you first have to get to know them.  Knowing who a person is and what their motivations in life are, is what will begin the process of caring.

Putting the Plan into action

Tom has very limited funds.  He can only hire a few full time tutors and has to depend on volunteers for the rest of the time.  This created a dilemma when more kids started coming.  Once Tom was trusted in the community more and more kids began coming.  The tutors were overwhelmed by the number of kids.  They had to help several kids at once which wasn’t nearly as effective as it would be if it were one on one.  However despite these challenges Tom quickly became friends with the kids.

Giving Hope

There are teachers that have an amazing ability to instill confidence in a student.  They don’t push students to better themselves.  They lead students to find in themselves the skills they naturally have.  They teach by caring about your success and inspiring you to be self-motivated in your progression.

Hope for the Future

These kids have a long way to go in school.  Most of them are only in elementary.  They will soon realize that it doesn’t get any easier the further they advance.  In fact the opposite happens, it only gets harder.  I see Tom the manager of the South Franklin Community Center playing with some of the kids who have finished their homework.  In him, I see a big brother to these kids, who have no example to follow.  Tom found himself in a position to help these kids and he intends to inspire them to go far beyond their wildest dreams.  Already after only a year of helping them, there has been an impressive amount of improvement in the kids’ reading abilities and their math skills.  They no longer struggle with simple concepts and are beginning to see where they can go in life.  Tom is helping them through every step.

He is just one individual who truly cares and yet he is changing the way these kids view their lives and their place in the world.  One individual who cares is making a difference.  Not in the universe, not for the Earth, not for the U.S., but for these kids.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: