"When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments; tenderness for what he is, and respect for what he may become."— Louis Pasteur
The above quote reminds me of Linda Traver, a passionate tutor/mentor for the Study Buddies after-school program on East Linden Street. Linda moved to Unionville about five years ago. She quickly learned about Kennett Square, as she attended the Kennett Friends Meeting and then heard about Study Buddies, which is a program that Friends has supported for many years.
Linda is a natural in taking on a tutoring role, as her life’s career was being teacher and administrator with two elementary schools---Wilmington Friends and Goshen Friends. Retired, she was looking for something meaningful to apply her experience and talents. As Linda says, “I wanted to give back and be invested in a part of the community.”
Linda started volunteering at Study Buddies in January 2016 and has been helping out ever since; at least a couple of days a week, sometimes three. She praises this program, which prides itself on being “study buddies,” so that everyone is joining in the learning process. This means that Miss Linda (as the students call her) also learns something every day! The program is conducted in the church basement of Bethel AME Church in the center of the Historic East Linden neighborhood of young families with children. There is an average attendance of 12-15 students, but attendance can go up past 20 on some days. Linda also expresses appreciation for the current head teacher, Meaghan Toohey, who organizes each day very carefully, along with setting guidelines for respectful, caring behavior.
Study Buddies meets Monday through Friday and starts at 4pm with a snack, which is often provided by community volunteers. During this time, the tutors sit with the children and have a casual conversation about their day. This is a time that some mentoring may take place. If the weather is nice, the students go out to play and burn up some energy. The students then settle down to read for twenty minutes, either on their own, in a cozy corner with bean bags, or if younger, someone reads to them. The students keep a reading lof of what they had just read. This is followed by twenty minutes of homework, with tutoring help if needed, followed by a craft or game activity. At 5:30pm a dinner is provided by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Dismissal is 6pm.
Linda reports that various pairs of Kennett police officers visit Study Buddies once a week to play, talk and read with the youth and stay for about an hour. This has built a great rapport between the youth and the police, which is demonstrated on National Night Out, when police officers and the neighborhood have an event promoting community unity. Linda helps out with this program, as well as the annual summer block party and other street events, as she also is a board member of the Carter Community Development Corporation.
Kennett Square is unique in the number of after-school programs it offers youth. More importantly, the community is gaining by the relationships that are being developed across neighborhoods and communities through students and volunteers meeting in these programs. Linda Traver is an example of a volunteer who is building relationships and beams when she says, “the children make my heart smile.”
The Story of Kennett: Shaping Our Future One Child at a Time by Joan Holliday and Bob George may be purchased on Amazon; at the Kennett Resale Book Shoppe or The Mushroom Cap in Kennett Square.