This summer I began three new relationships. It has been six years since I have worked with a first grader. While each youth has unique challenges, the one thing they have in common is an abundance of energy. The older youth I work with can now engage in an activity for hours with little to no distraction. With the first graders I have to change up the activity about every fifteen minutes.

Tommy is very behind in school. We spent much of this summer working on recognizing all the letters in the alphabet and learning to count to 10. The more time we spent together, the less he wanted to practice his letters and numbers. To keep him engaged, I have him practice writing and saying the letters in the car on our trips to/from our community house in NE Portland. To practice counting I use cubes and have us put them together and count them until we get to ten. When we’re not practicing letters and counting, Tommy loves to do art and play games. The goal is for Tommy to know his letters and count to twenty by Christmas break.

Darion is the most energetic of the three new youth. He loves to be active. Having three older siblings at home, Darion receives lots of support. Darion can count to twenty so we are working to get him to go further.
He also recognizes all the letters in the alphabet so we have begun working on sight words. We have taken advantage of the summer weather and played at various playgrounds. This setting is perfect for him. We mix in counting and sight word practice with time on the swings and chasing each other. With the support of his family, the goal is to have Darion counting to 100 and recognizing at least 30 sight words by Christmas break.

Saul has a huge imagination.
On our walks to the SE Portland community house he tells me all kinds of stories. Most of them are about how he’s jumped out of airplanes, swam across oceans and climbed large mountains all on his own. He has a very good understanding of his letters and knows more sight words that the other two boys. He can also count higher than the other boys. To strengthen Saul’s vocabulary we are practicing his sight words by saying, writing and then saying the words again. We are also using the cubes to practice counting. However, we are practicing counting by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s. When we’re not learning words and numbers, Saul is using his imagination to run a grocery store or creating adventures for the hex bugs we play with. The goal is for Saul to learn at least 25 new words and be able to add with 1’s and 2’s by Christmas break.

All three of these new relationships are unique. Each youth is at a different level in his education. To reach the goals I have set we have to work on them each week. While they all do different activities to strengthen their knowledge, they all require the same technique of switching activities every fifteen minutes so that our outings stay positive. I am really looking forward to seeing these relationships grow over the years to come.

– A Friend


*Names have been changed to protect our program youth. Photo does not reflect youth in story.