Jack Rosenberg, 15, is a rising 10th grader at Horace Greeley High School and was a tutor this summer as part of JCCA’s Bridging the Gap program. He has been volunteering with JCCA since he was nine, along with his entire family, including his mother, Ali Rosenberg, who helps organize the Tween Volunteer program and has co-chaired the Tree event several years running. Jack and his mom sat down with JCCA to talk about his experience as a tutor this summer. This interview has been edited lightly for length and clarity.
JCCA: How long have you been volunteering with JCCA?
I started volunteering in the Tween Program after my older brother got involved volunteering on campus. I was nine, so it’s been six years, I think. Our whole family has been involved with JCCA for a while. My family and I mentored a young guy named Marquise, and that was a really awesome experience. Our family actually still is in touch with him and very involved in his life. We are there in case he ever needs our support or guidance. A few years ago, I mentored a guy named Sammy, and we are all still in touch with him too. Both of these guys have been huge impacts on my life, and on my family.
JCCA: Wow, you have been very involved on campus, that’s great. How did you learn about Bridging the Gap?
I wasn’t able to go back to campus because of COVID, but I really wanted to stay involved. I’d gotten involved in START 2 in 8th grade and recruited a few friends to participate, and we tried to keep up with START 2 during COVID but it was really hard to do it over zoom. So, when mom told me about the tutoring program it seemed like a really great opportunity to give back and stay involved with JCCA.
JCCA: What was the initial tutoring onboarding like this summer?
I’m really glad I met with the L.E.A.P. team on zoom to go over expectations, talk about how we’d be matched, and to learn more about the kids we’d be tutoring. I learned that I’d be matched with a kid that was either about to go into 2nd or 3rd grade, and I’d be able to see their report card. That was a big help for me to set my own expectations, and also the report card was great, as I felt like I would be able to figure out which subject to work on with them — figure out what they needed the most help with.
JCCA: How was your experience tutoring? What were some of the challenges?
I was matched with Z, a rising 3rd grader from JCCA’s Preventive Services division in the city. At first, it didn’t go very well, to be honest. On our intro zoom call, I spoke mostly with her mom, and I could hear Z in the background saying she didn’t want to join. She was shy and didn’t really understand that I was there to help, according to her mom. I was a little nervous about how it was going to go.
When I met with her a week later, I began with math. It was the subject she was struggling with the most, but when I asked her to complete to first three problems on the math worksheet, her mom interrupted me to say that she couldn’t read them. I was totally blown away. I knew right then that was the thing we had to focus on. We had to focus on her reading.
JCCA: How did you begin to help her with her reading? Did you reach out to L.E.A.P. staff for help?
I emailed Kinia Gonzalez, Associate Director of Education, asking for guidance, and she sent over some beginner level worksheets for us that were really great. We started working on those the next week. When we got through a worksheet it was always a really big deal to Z. We were doing things like breaking down words, sounding things out, and generally I was helping with reading comprehension, too. I tried to make it fun and I could tell she began to get more comfortable with me. I saw her develop and become really proud of herself. We often worked together for longer than the hour we were scheduled for.
JCCA: What’s a way you made this fun for her?
I tried to make the material relatable. I learned her favorite foods and then used them in math problems, things like that.
JCCA: Did you get any feedback from her mom while you were tutoring her?
Yeah! Her mom emailed me and said she’d never seen her so calm and collected doing her schoolwork.
JCCA: That must have been really rewarding!
Yes, it was! I was most proud of the fact that by the end of the program she and I were reading pages together and she really understood what she was reading. It was great to see her become engaged in the stories. She has become much more comfortable with reading and math, just overall! After the first two sessions she seemed pretty excited to sign on and work with me. Every week it felt like I was making a difference.