One of Maria’s strengths is her patience. Every day she genuinely seeks to connect with each individual student in Kids Club. She finds that some students connect easily with their leaders – while other students remain reserved, requiring patience and creativity to build deeper relationships. These are the students she seeks out most on a daily basis.
“I want every student to know they are seen and that they are special to me, as well as the rest of the class,” says Maria, who is in her second year as a Kids Club assistant in Casa’s Local Leader program.
This comes extremely naturally to her. When asked why she simply says, “That’s how I am.” Growing up as a quiet student who moved often, she can relate to the students who may feel forgotten. “Sometimes the students who are quiet and obedient may get lost amidst their classmates. My goal is for them to know I see them, that they are important to me and that I think they are fun to be with.”
This has been the case with Rafael. Rafael is a smart kid who is curious about learning and loves to play soccer at Kids Club, but building trust and confidence with adults takes work for him. Sometimes Rafael brushes off instructions from staff with disinterest, saying things are dumb or boring. If he has had a hard day at school or home, he may just want to keep it inside and not talk with anyone.
During this summer’s tutoring program, Maria began to notice a shift. Rafael would get really excited about working with her through math flashcards. Then she saw that when he felt upset and frustrated, he would go to her and open up without hesitation. Rafael began reminding Maria every so often that he cared about her by saying “Hey, you’re my friend!” Then he’d follow that up with a goofy joke or playfully trying to scare her in a silly way.
Maria’s time is valuable at Kids Club, but the extra effort she has invested into building a deeper and stronger relationship with Rafael has truly been worthwhile. At Kids Club, everybody matters. Between her efforts and Rafael’s relationship with his mentor at Casa, he has grown from a quiet and shy student to one who now lights up the room with his energetic smile. Rafael has one more friend he can count on – and Maria does too.