by Terri Durham, Office Coordinator

“Falls far below academically.” That’s what his report card said when Amos gave it to after school coordinator, Toni. One of the requirements to be in the program is to show your report card every quarter, because Seeds of Hope improves our community by tutoring kids in our after school program. And Amos needed tutoring.

Behind those dark-rimmed square glasses was a brown-eyed first-grader who was falling behind his peers in school by no fault of his own. His family life was anything but normal. Mom and dad weren’t together and he shuffled back and forth between them and also between grandma and grandpa weekly. He was capable of meeting educational standards, but he just needed a special someone to encourage him.

Enter Miss Suzy. Suzy loves God and loves children. She’s retired, but keeps busy volunteering. She doesn’t have a background in teaching, just a passion for encouraging kids to dream big and be all God wants them to be.

She started volunteering at the after school program once a week to tutor kids. But after working with Amos, Suzy knew he needed one-on-one time more than just once a week. So she started going twice a week, specifically to tutor Amos. She took flashcards, phonetic worksheets and new books on his reading level every time she went.

He was easily discouraged when he couldn’t perform well for Miss Suzy, like he wanted to. She lovingly cheered him on, urging him to do his best. He didn’t know it, but Miss Suzy was working on his self-esteem as much as she was working on his academics. Soon, Amos was choosing to stay in the tutoring room all afternoon with Miss Suzy working on improving his reading skills, instead of participating in other activities with the rest of the after school kids.

His favorite book to practice reading was Clifford, the Big Red Dog. Miss Suzy brought it every week to see how far he could read through it on his own. She promised him he could take the book home once he was able to read through the whole thing by himself. Now he had a goal and just the motivation he needed to keep trying his hardest.

Christmas break was approaching and school would be out for two weeks. The after school program would also be closed and Amos knew he wouldn’t see Miss Suzy for a while. When Amos was picked up on the last day before break, he slowly walked out the door waving goodbye to her. Their eyes locked on each other. Would she come back after Christmas? He could only hope so. Little did he know she had tucked that Clifford book in his backpack as a surprise and a reassurance that she would be back. She had grown pretty fond of that little boy. And the feeling was mutual.

Volunteers like Suzy are how Seeds of Hope makes a difference. On April 4 you have an opportunity to invest in Seeds of Hope and be part of the work we do in our community. Arizona Gives Day is a 24-hour online fundraiser for nonprofits across Arizona. Our 2017 goal is to raise $75,000 in 24 hours. Visit our website to learn more about Arizona Gives Day and how we improve lives in our community.