Published on January 5, 2012 by Tova Weinronk
Through the TELEM/JCC Literacy Corps, I travel to the Medford Boys and Girls Club with a group of other students from Lexington High School each Tuesday to work with the elementary aged students on their homework and to read with them. I joined TELEM as a freshman, and as I came to the Medford Boys and Girls Club week after week, I found myself loving the program and what I was doing. Tuesday became the highlight of my week. I treasured the bus rides to the club, the discussions we would have before reading, and most of all, spending time with the kids. By the end of 9th grade I had fulfilled all of the community service hours required from me for all four years of high school, yet I continued doing the program through sophomore, junior and now senior year. Continuing is not just a reflection of me, but of the program itself. Many of the high school students who participate in TELEM have long fulfilled their required service hours, yet most come back each year.
As we walked into the club the first Tuesday of this year, the kids ran up to us with so much energy and excitement. The kids make TELEM by far the most rewarding community service program that I have been a part of. Many of the students at the club struggle with their homework or read below their grade level and need someone to guide, explain and keep them focused. Others are just passionate about reading and want a high school student to read with and to talk to. While the program is meant to benefit the community we are working with, it has had an immense impact on my own life.
TELEM has taught me how to interact with elementary aged students- to be patient, and to listen. It has taught me that I can be a leader and a role model. It has taught me that I love teaching and explaining. But more than that, it has taught me that I am passionate about volunteering and that I am capable of making a difference in a child’s life. The volunteer work I have done has strongly influenced my own Jewish identity. A core belief in Judaism is Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, and we can do it, one worksheet, one chapter, one child at a time.
Literacy pushed me to participate in other service programs. Through Prozdor Hebrew High School I was a part of their TELEM program through the “Connecting Generations” track at the Coleman House, where my class read and discussed Jewish texts with the seniors there. Volunteering also pushed me to participate in Diller, a yearlong fellowship program that focused on leadership and social justice.
Community service can often be challenging; it is not always easy, fun or rewarding. But TELEM drew me back week after week. It has been incredible watching the kids grow, their reading improving each year. I have learned so much from my experience in this program, and I look forward to both teaching and continuing to learn from the kids throughout the year.
Tova Weinronk is currently a senior at Lexington High School and has made volunteerism an integral part of her life. She has been a literacy tutor through the JCC/TELEM partnership for four years. Tova plans to continue to be involved in community service when she attends college next year.