If you walk into Presencia’s apartment during tutoring hours, you’ll see a group of Latinx teenagers doing something extraordinary.
With genuine affection and joy, they tutor and mentor students from the local elementary school. They joke with each other as they serve snacks and drinks, lean over homework assignments, listen to stories from the lives of their students, and read books aloud.
The joyful, united spirit in the room would be remarkable in any group of teenagers, but it’s especially striking here, in a troubled neighborhood where most families live under the pressures of poverty and racism.
Before the school year started, we partnered with our friends from Local Adventurer to bring our tutoring staff to Chattanooga. As we spent time building our sense of community, chatting about our lives, and going from one adventure to another, we began to see and hear signs of the stresses they face in their daily lives.
One tutor shrugged when he told us about the vanishing possibility of his dream job due to political changes. Another felt tempted to leave school so that he could work full-time to support his family. At a climbing gym, one of our teenage tutoring staff wasn’t able to join us on the wall for nearly an hour due to a parent struggling to navigate the online waiver.
Between meetings and adventures, our entire staff processed a recent murder in our neighborhood, and many of them had personal connection with the suspect and the victim.
On the final night, as we celebrated our friend’s birthday with a piñata, cake, and music, a senior in high school got a call that her dad was in police custody, facing deportation.
Poverty leaves our neighbors without shelter from life-changing problems. A simple event like a traffic stop, a trip to the hospital, a change in immigration policy, car problems, or landlord issues can tear apart a family, derail a life, and destroy years of careful work.
With all these pressures and challenges, how are our staff able to do such good work with obvious joy and unity? The answer is found in loving, consistent community.
This community is formed by generous donors, a wise and hardworking board, and people of faith who pray for this work. That larger community creates context for our staff and volunteers to connect and care for the children of immigrants each day.
Our young tutoring staff are paid well, trained, and encouraged in their work. We address problems together, walk through life’s seasons together, and look together toward a future full of possibility.
Out of this rich community and love, great mentoring and tutoring work flows from one generation to the next, who will learn to lead with love and join our team when they are ready.
Would you like to be part of the community that makes this rich work possible? We need donors, volunteers, and partners to sustain and deepen our work in this neighborhood. If you would like to join Presencia in this life-giving work, just click the button below to get started.
If you are already part of our community, thanks! We're so grateful for you!