By Samantha Huber
AU repeatedly tells their students to get involved both on-campus and in the community, but students often have no idea where to start or feel unsure about taking the step to join an organization. Several students from AU have taken that leap of faith and joined “A Heart for Kids,” an organization that serves the Anderson community through faith-based mentoring and tutoring for children.
Sophomore Jennifer Sanders explained what a great opportunity working with “A Heart for Kids” is for anyone.
“This is a great opportunity to get some hands-on experience and become an active member in the community and give back to Anderson in some way,” Sanders said. “In addition to all of those great things, you will be making a tremendous impact in a young student’s life.”
Not only do students get to impact the community and lives of individuals through “A Heart for Kids,” but working with the kids has a profound impact on the volunteers.
“I think that the most important lesson that I have learned through working here is to never count anyone out,” said Sanders. “When I first started working with my student, she was levels below what her reading level should have been based on her grade, but I have recently found out that she has gone up seven reading levels and is only two behind the goal that her teacher set for her by the end of the year, and she told me today that she wants to go past that goal to surprise everyone. Any student has infinitely much room to grow and succeed.”
Sanders wholeheartedly believes in the positive effects working with “A Heart for Kids” has for individuals from all areas and backgrounds.
“Even for non-education majors, this program will give you amazing experience working with different kinds of individuals from different home lives and allow you to experience what it is like working and serving within your local community,” she said. “It is a great opportunity to get more experience working with kids, as well as make some money while experiencing something fun and new.”
Something as simple as one of the kids asking to walk over to the building together made all the difference to Sanders.
“That was the first time that I had felt she really made a connection with me, and since then we have gotten closer,” she said. “I feel like we have such a good relationship and can just enjoy our tutor time together.”
Senior Tori Robinson has also learned important lessons as a result of her time with “A Heart for kids.”
“I have learned to continue to seek patience because the kids have as much going on in their lives as I do,” she said.
Robinson believes the work that “A Heart for Kids” is doing in the lives of kids and in the community of Anderson is invaluable.
“It is amazing how much all of this is impacting their lives because, in some cases, it is probably one of the only places they are getting showered with love and care,” she said. “It provides them with the consistency of having someone set expectations for them and not let them slip through the cracks like the education system often does.”
“A Heart for Kids” is a valuable experience for all different majors and potential careers. Robinson has found that her interactions with kids while involved with “A Heart for Kids” will aid her in her career that will involve interacting and counseling kids of different ages.
“Some of the kids have gone through worse situations than me and being aware of that helps me with the counseling aspect of my future career a lot,” she said. “You get to discuss what they are going through and help teach them how to process those feelings and let them know that it is okay to have feelings about things.”
Although working with certain kids or parents can be difficult, Robinson is convinced that the good always outweighs the bad.
“The pure excitement the kids show and all of the hugs I get are absolutely amazing… I even have kids run up to their parents and say this is the only time they are having fun and the favorite part of their week.”
Sanders and Robinson both agree that being involved with “A Heart for Kids” has been a one-of-a-kind experience, and they would love to see even more people get involved.
Robinson has been with “A Heart for Kids” for two years now and has witnessed how much it has already grown and cannot wait to see what the future holds for the organization.
“Seeing first-hand how ‘A Heart for Kids’ has developed, grown, and expanded since I have been a part of the program for two of the three years of existence has been awesome,” she said. “I have gotten to witness how many more kids we can help and how we can positively influence their lives.”