It’s Tuesday night, and Geraldine Miranda (SFS ’13) waves goodbye to the van that has dropped her off in front of the small apartment in Chinatown where she tutors twice a week.
She knocks on the door, and her two tutees, Johnny, age seven, and Danny, age nine, run to open it; shouting her name as she enters the apartment.
As part of the D.C. Schools Project, one of the title programs of the Center for Social Justice, Miranda is just one of the 200 Georgetown students who go out into the District weekly to tutor students in need of extra help. In the 27 years since its inception, the program has risen in popularity, exploding from 15 students to its current membership. For volunteers, the program has become an invaluable part of their lives as they teach — and learn — from their tutees.
“I’m making a personal and tangible difference in my tutees’ lives that the D.C. public school [system] does not provide,” Rebecca Yang (SFS ’12) said.
Offering academic support for kids from low-income backgrounds who need support beyond what their public schools can offer, Georgetown students can provide the extra tutoring to kick-start these students’ academic success.
“Schools love us,” DCSP’s Interim Director Carlos Ojeda (MSB ’11) said. “They want us to keep coming.”
Ojeda pointed out, however, that Georgetown students themselves have a lot to gain from the program.
“Georgetown is a bubble. It’s very, very different than the outside world. Going out and seeing the rest of D.C. will not only raise your awareness of social issues, but can prepare students for the real world,” he said.
Student Coordinator Liliana Pichardo (MSB ’12) echoed his sentiments.
“[The program] is a great way to get off campus and really learn about immigration issues, the public school system, and what’s going on in other cultures. It’s an eye-opening experience,” she said.
But the program has its share of complications, mainly stemming from its lack of transportation resources. Ojeda said that the program shares buses with the entire Center for Social Justice, which limits the number of buses available exclusively to DCSP.
“If [the buses] are full, we just can’t help more people,” he said. “I think with the right leadership and more resources, we can continue to grow.”
Miranda herself ran into transportation issues her first two years in the program.
Though she was eager to take part in DCSP when she arrived on campus her freshman year, Miranda, who uses a wheelchair, was disappointed to find that the CSJ did not have a handicap accessible van in light of their van shortages. For her first two years at Georgetown, Miranda could only take part in the project’s on-campus programs.
Still, she was determined to work with her tutees in their own homes.
“I really wanted to go out and teach students in their homes, where they feel comfortable. I wanted that to be possible,” she said.
Last year, at Miranda’s urging, university officials secured the wheelchair-accessible van that transports her to Johnny and Danny’s apartment each week.
At Tuesday night’s session, both boys competed fiercely in a game of vocabulary bingo. Afterward, she read to them from “The Magic School Bus” and assigned them vocabulary exercises for the following week.
On the ride home, Miranda boasted about the boys’ improvements, visibly excited as she described the advanced material that Johnny was reading and Danny’s growing confidence in his abilities.
Just like Miranda, Yang spoke to the visible impact she sees in the kids’ academic progress.
“A lot of my students get lost in the cracks, and I feel like I can bring them back up again, little by little.”