TCO volunteers step up and reach out

April 9, 2014 | 11 a.m.

Culture | Lindsey Sweet for The Clarion

“What are you doing within your own community?”

This is the question junior Danielle MacGillivray asked herself when she decided against going to New York for an internship last summer. As she prayed about it, she began to feel a calling to feed the community she lives in everyday. As she looked for ways to get involved, she heard about Twin Cities Outreach.

Many people are drawn to missions work far away, but they don’t have to go to a third world country to get involved and make a difference. TCO is an organization that helps students get involved in their own area and gain a deeper understanding of the complex issues facing their local neighborhoods.

The program gives students the opportunity to learn about social inequality in the Twin Cities and, according to their webpage, to “examine their assumptions and think more holistically about complex issues related to race and class."

There are more than 10 different programs Bethel students can get involved in, one of which is Emerge, a tutoring program for homeless youth that Bethel has been partnering with for several years. Tutors primarily work on homework and reading proficiency with students from kindergarten to sixth grade, but they also are able to plan other activities such as making play doh and doing things their schools don’t have the resources to provide.

The students are full of energy and excited to have college students help them with their homework. When the tutors walk in, they are greeted with squeals of excitement and plenty of jumping up and down.

None of the students are at the reading level for their grade, so a large part of tutoring involves getting them to practice reading aloud.

This means tutors don’t have to be education majors to get involved.

Because many of the students don’t have a parent available to help them complete their homework, the program has been successful in raising the students’ grades. Reggie Glass, the coordinator for the program, said that it is exciting to “see light bulbs go off” as things begin to click and students understand their homework.

The tutors said that the help sessions quickly became a highlight of their week. When asked about their favorite part, tutors seemed to enjoy being able to spend time with the students and the relationships they are able to build.

“The kids give us as much as we give them,” MacGillivray explained. “They are so fun, and they remember you, so they get so excited when you come back. I get so much energy from it; they’re goofy and they make me laugh.”

Because of the connections being built, it is important for tutors to be committed to returning each week. Otherwise, the kids tend to be disappointed. Students still ask about tutors who were involved last semester.

Jenniah Fredericks said her favorite part is getting to know the kids.

“I love the kids,” she said. “I just love to get to know them and to help them in any way they need to be helped, but mostly I really appreciate the opportunity to be their friend.”

Fredericks decided to get involved because she loved having college tutors help her when she was younger, so she wanted to give back.

Beyond Emerge, TCO offers many other opportunities including helping at homeless shelters, teaching children with disabilities to swim, teaching English Sign Language, helping students develop life skills and building affordable housing. With the amount of variety available, there is something for nearly everyone to get involved in.

f you want to get involved with Twin Cities Outreach, check out the Campus Ministries page online, contact Tanden Brekke or stop by Campus Ministries for more information.

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