After School Program Helps George Succeed21 Feb 2018 • Alumni Spotlight [ssba]
At 18 eighteen years old, Jorge is exactly where every parent wants his or her child to be. Not only is the Hartford senior an honors student preparing to attend college in the fall, but, as a varsity athlete who mentors local youth and has completed over 1,000 hours of community service, he’s also an extra-curricular all-star.
He beams with pride over his accomplishments to date, which says a lot because the only thing he was confident in as a young boy was his doubt over his ability to be successful.
In the fourth grade, Jorge’s his reading and math skills were significantly below grade level. He was also struggling outside of the classroom — his father went to prison, his mother lost her job, and his family was evicted from their apartment. “It was a really dark time for me. I was depressed, and I had to quickly become the man of the house and be a role model to my younger brother,” Jorge said.
Despite the dark times, within the cloud of doubt that loomed over Jorge’s head lived a tiny ray of hope — the notion that, with help, he could achieve his dreams. That help came in the form of a network of United Way-supported programs that established solid ground for Jorge and his family when there seemed to be none.
As a participant in a United Way-supported after school program, Jorge turned to the agency’s staff for the support he needed. The staff connected his mother with 2-1-1 who located temporary housing at a shelter. In just two short months, his mom got a job and the family was able to move to an apartment.
Over the next year, Jorge worked with reading and math tutors in the after-school program and his classroom performance dramatically improved. By fifth grade, he was immersed in the Magic Tree House book series, and by seventh grade his teachers reported he was reading on an 11th grade level.
“My tutors knew I processed problems in different ways than other kids,” said Jorge, adding that the one-on-one instruction outside of the classroom was the key to his success inside the classroom. “To this day, there are so many tools and tricks the tutors taught me that I still use.” Even as his classroom performance improved, the help Jorge received didn’t stop. As he settled into his teenage years, he felt a growing need to help his mother out with the bills.
“I felt lost being the man of the house and not being able to help my mom out. My brother and I also needed things like clothes for school, and it was hard because I knew my mom was struggling, and I didn’t want to ask her for money when she had none,” he explained.
Jorge turned to his after-school program staff once again, and they responded by setting him up with his first job: a staff-in-training position in a United Way-supported youth-serving agency.
While he worked, Jorge gave half of his paycheck to his mom, and he was also able to keep some money to buy school clothes for himself and his younger brother.
Today, Jorge has his eyes set on a bright future and only looks back to reflect on how far he’s come and how appreciative he is of the support system he found in United Way –supported programs.
“To me, it’s one of the best things in the world to know there’s somebody reaching out to you and trying to help you out,” he says of the support he received.
In the past year, nearly 3,200 youth improved their academic performance as a result of participation in United Way-supported after school programs.