As we usher in 5777, we begin a new year of community service programming at JCRC. This year, the Greater Boston Jewish Coalition for Literacy (GBJCL) reaches the major milestone of 20 years of programming. Launched in response to President Bill Clinton’s call to action called America Reads in 1996, GBJCL places volunteers in high needs public schools where students benefit from the one on one attention volunteers provide.
Over the years, our volunteers have made the program their own, not only working with students on reading, but helping them with math, writing, and a variety of subjects. One longtime volunteer, Nancy Krieger, brought her background as a dance-movement therapist to help students settle and concentrate while learning. Nancy said, “Our one-to-one tutoring has proven to be so much more than the skills we practice, and the assignments we assist the students to complete; it is the RELATIONSHIP that we nurture.”
For some of our volunteers, their dedication, both to their students and their schools grows over time. Seymour Newberger, from Temple Beth Emunah in Brockton, has been a dedicated GBJCL volunteer for over five years. He has been working with 5th grade students at the Arnone School in Brockton for a whopping 20-30 hours each week! Sy, a retired civil engineer, works on math and science with groups of students almost every day, from morning until the school day ends. He arrives with his own custom prepared lesson plans, complete with original questions and activities on the subjects being learned in the classroom.
Arnone School teacher, Erin McGuire sums up Sy’s vast contribution, “Sy has been a lifesaver in meeting the needs of our students who are individual learners. He started volunteering for 30 minutes and now spends almost the entire day helping the entire 5th grade.”
A former long-time Boy Scout leader, Sy also serves as a mentor. Ms. Oalican, another 5th grade teacher, shared the positive impact Sy has on her students, “Sy is very patient, extremely giving, funny, and the kids fight over who gets to go [work] with him. He’s a great male role model for the students and he creates real world examples of how math is used.”
As GBJCL anticipates its third decade, we’re delighted to welcome our new director, Rebecca Shimshak. Most recently at Gann Academy, Becca brings over 15 years of experience developing educational programming and promoting volunteerism. We’re so glad to have her here to celebrate our 20th year of the program.
5777 gives us a lot to be excited about. We are proud that GBJCL, and all our service programs, continue to expand and reinvent themselves. Our new staff brings a fresh energy and perspective that will build on the program successes we’ve had. In the year ahead, service will continue to be a cornerstone of our work at JCRC, serving as an outlet for people to express and live out their social justice values.