A Young Man and A Boy

March 2013 Volume 3 Issue 3

Volunteers are New Hope’s life’s blood. To provide adequate homework help for our “at-risk” students, we strive for a student-to-mentor ratio of about 2-to-1. That means to run a program for forty registered students three days each week, we need a whopping sixty volunteers. The following is the story of just one of our sixty heroic volunteers.


“I am Theron Cunningham, a Junior at ULL and I am the Chapter President of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.


I began working with New Hope in February 2012 after one of my fraternity brothers introduced me to Mr. John Newman. I have been volunteering ever since. Upon arriving my first day, I was paired with a little first-grader named “Devonus.”


“Devonus” was an extremely quiet child: he never said a word. To be honest, his initial lack of responsiveness made it very difficult to work with him.


Mr. John and his wife Ms. Kris would give me tips on how to work with him, like having his table face the wall so he would not be distracted. Along with many other useful tips, they suggested that “Devonus” write his spelling words on 3×5 cards so he would only be looking at one word at a time. His spelling grades began to improve.


Over time, very slowly, I began to see progress in other areas of his life: he started to talk! He began to tell me about his day at school. He started singing his favorite songs to me. Some days he would tell me how he felt about the other children at his school. We developed a routine. For the first 10-15 minutes of tutoring we simply talked about his day. I would always ask him questions simply to get him talking. His personality began to emerge. I began to wonder, “Maybe the reason “Devonus” had previously been so quiet was that there was no one patient enough to listen to him?”


After a few months, I realized that “Devonus” was actually a bright student. “Devonus” is very observant and attentive to his surroundings. This, mixed with his desire to make others laugh, is what causes him to get distracted from his work. It can give the appearance that he is uninterested in his work. I have realized that with patience guidance, I could get him to want to do his schoolwork.


Eventually, I stopped using special techniques with him and began treating him like the rest of the students. “Devonus” has responded by rising to the level of my expectations for him. He has not completely changed over the last twelve months, but I have witnessed tremendous growth. Now he not only takes out his homework folder, but he also explains his instructions to me. Instead of me getting him started and working every problem out with him, he takes initiative in doing much of his work himself.


Over the last year, I have watched “Devonus” develop as a student as well as a person. I have noticed that the one thing that helped him gain the most improvement was my expectations of him. I see that as long as I expected more of him and worked firmly, but patiently with him, then there was nothing he could not accomplish. “Devonus” is just like many of the children at New Hope.


These children all have huge potential. They are just waiting for someone to believe in them and expect the best from them.”

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