Thursday, October 2, 2014

Heading Out to Nature with Outward Bound

Over Labor Day weekend, our 8th grade Scholars experienced one of the most beautiful landscapes in the state of California: Big Basin Redwoods State Park. There, some of the oldest known trees in the world exist, providing shade all day long and a gauntlet of trails with elevations upwards of 2,000 feet. SMART Scholars spent three days and two nights in the park along with two SMART staff members and four instructors from the Outward Bound Outdoor Education Program.  While there, students were pushed to their physical and emotional limits, helping one another overcome challenges and developing a new sense of camaraderie among the class of 2019.

While at Big Basin, students were split into two separate groups for the duration of the trip. The days started with stretching, preparing our bodies for the long days ahead, then breakfast (prepared by our student chefs), followed by long days of hiking and games. Individual and team building activities were intermittently peppered in, varying from journal entries to sharing challenging experiences in discussion groups. The days ended with half of the group setting up camp while the other half prepared dinner. Then, as is obligatory with these types of trips, once it got dark, scary stories were shared.

The trip was an experience that our Scholars will not forget! They challenged and supported one another, deepening the relationships and connections that have been forged over their past three years at SMART. With high school quickly approaching, the class of 2019 will have this trip to remember the great things they are capable of achieving and their ability to face and overcome any challenge.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Wilson Lau

“I always knew that I wanted to somehow be involved with kids. I had a friend who was working as a volunteer tutor, and I was in the process of looking for an organization to volunteer with. My friend suggested that I join her one night at SMART to check out the program. I showed up, and ended up sitting with Enrique for a bit. We clicked, and once he became more comfortable with me, he really opened up.” 

Wilson tutoring through the years! From left to right with Enrique (now a college freshman), Anfernee (a high school freshman), and Eduardo (current 7th grader).
Wilson and Enrique reconnecting at SMART's 2014
Career Conference.
That was seven years ago, and today, Wilson is still going strong as a SMART tutor! He is currently working with his third Scholar. “I ended up tutoring Enrique for two years, until he graduated from middle school—he’s currently at San Francisco State, and wants to be an engineer…which is surprising because in middle school he hated math. After Enrique, I worked with Anfernee for three years—we connected because we are both techies. I’m currently on my second year tutoring Eduardo—he loves to read, and loves to talk about what he’s reading.” 

On tutoring, Wilson said, “The level at which the kids are expected to perform in 7th grade is so much more than was expected of me…and they do it! Sometimes they are working on math or science problems that tutors haven’t seen in 10 or 15 years, and if I don’t get it, that’s fine—I want them to get it. Mostly, they just need to realize that they already know it. Maybe it’s not really tutoring, but enabling the students to teach themselves.” 

In addition to working one-on-one with our Scholars, Wilson has been a fixture around SMART, chipping in whenever help is needed. He makes a point of volunteering at our annual SMART Goes to College fundraisers, joins in for volunteer happy hours and student celebrations, has helped to recruit new volunteers, and always participates in our Assessment Saturdays, assisting the SMART community in identifying our next group of incoming Scholars through interviews, group activities, and math and English language arts assessments.

“There is something really genuine about hanging out with children. It gives me a different perspective on the rest of the world. And I know that I’m not wasting my life by helping someone—I’m doing something worthwhile. In the end, they teach me more than I teach them.” 

Thank you Wilson for your dedication to SMART and to our Scholars!