JCC's Teens for Tzedek Reading Buddies!

Medford Boys and Girls Club/Haynes Early Ed Center, Roxbury

“I like when the Reading Buddies come visit. We get to do fun stuff we can’t do in school- like read stories, and draw pictures about what we learned. I like reading about princesses the best, but I guess other books are ok too.”

Tamai, a second-grader at the Medford Boys and Girls Club looks forward to being with her Reading Buddy each week. Students from Lexington High School volunteer at the Club as part of TELEM’s Literacy track through the Newton JCC’s Teens for Tzedek program. The buddies play games, help with homework, and sometimes even give guitar lessons. “I love coming here every week.The students are running around and screaming, so excited to see us. It’s a great feeling! But it’s just really cool to be seen as a part of the community. We come here to help kids, but to be honest, I feel like I get more out of it than they do,” says one TELEM teen. “It’s fun, but it’s also so rewarding.”

These thoughts are echoed by Tamar Cytryn, the Greater Boston JCC Teen Program Coordinator and TELEM's educator and coordinator of the Reading Buddies program. “The energy is just amazing sometimes. My students perk up when they see the kids at the Club shouting their names. They really get into tutoring, and that excitement and energy really solidifies in their commitment to the program.”

The JCC’s Teens for Tzedek has been a member of TELEM since the program was launched in 2005. “The Reading Buddies have made such an impact on our community,” says Haynes Ed Center Principal Valerie Goomz. “We've used the Reading Buddies as an incentive for our kids to behave well during the week- it’s been so popular we've used it as a reward system! But more than that, they’re giving our kids something all students need- one-on-one reading time. It’s something we value so much at the Haynes, and the Reading Buddies really help us reinforce it.”

This year, the JCC is offering two Literacy tracks; Lexington High School students volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club, and Newton North and Needham High School students volunteer at the Haynes.  Teens for Tzedek coordinator Tamar hopes to provide more programs now that fall sports have drawn to a close. “If any students in Brookline or Newton South, or any other high schools around here,want to get involved- give me a call! There’s always need for more Reading Buddies!”