Character development is a key part of a child’s growth, and in fact can influence their success in school. Mentoring from positive adult role models is an important part of that, especially at Exodus. However, the community here is also built upon peer-to-peer learning and mentoring. Students are acclimated early to the concept that if we help each other, we all win.
Jefeckson has just arrived from the Dominican Republic, and this is his first summer in New York City. He and his mom had to leave his dad behind, which was difficult, especially for Jefeckson because he and his dad were really close. Because he doesn’t speak English, he has been far more subdued than usual, something which greatly concerned his mother.
She found out about Exodus from a friend, and immediately enrolled him in the summer program. The students at Exodus embraced Jefeckson right away, and began translating everything for him to make him feel more at home. They have been reading to him, and teaching him new phrases ever since.
This is astounding, especially in light of the street culture here. At times, more “Americanized” Latino kids use the phrase “hick” to bully kids who have not learned English. This term is fueled with a similarly derogatory slant that the “N” word has and is just as despised.
We’re instilling in our students, from a very young age, that derogatory phrases are off limits. Instead, they have a responsibility to understand and help each other. In fact, the other day a tutor noticed that while waiting for their parents, one of Jefeckson’s classmates began reading to him from the Jesus Storybook Bible, translating words and phrases for him. This is a great indicator that our students are gaining literacy skills, and confidence, as they work together.
Jefeckson is making great strides, and, as his mom reported to our site coordinator, Brenda, his use of English has skyrocketed. He is also teaching his mom the English he has learned each day. More importantly, he is fully enjoying participating in all the summer activities with his new friends—in English and in Spanish.