At the beginning of last December, sophomore Bri Davies started a tutoring program for students in kindergarten through eighth grade at the Oak Park Community Center.
“This experience has already taught me so much, and it touched my heart in a way that nothing else could,” Davies said. “If I had the time, I would be at the learning center every single day with these kids. I can’t stress enough how much I have fallen in love with the children in this community and how much they changed my life.”
The students have improved dramatically since the start of the program, according to Davies.
“At the outset of my program in December, kids came in not knowing their alphabet, simple addition, subtraction, multiplication or division facts,” she said. “Some did not even know how to read and were not turning in homework.
“One of my kids initially was going to be held back due to his inability to read and comprehend, and just a few weeks ago, his mom conferenced with his teacher, and he will now be moving up to the next grade!”
She added that another of her students initially could barely read, and within two months, he had completely changed.
“One day, he read to his mom at the end of his tutoring session, and she was so happy that she almost cried!” Davies said. “I had never seen him so proud of himself.”
Davies said her inspiration to start the program came from working at another nonprofit.
“One day on the news, a man named Dr. Carroll Cooks was being featured,” Davies said. “He was running his own nonprofit known as No Youth Left Behind, and he was seeking outside help to come into the Oak Park community to help tutor and mentor the Oak Park youth.”
Davies attended a meeting with Cooks to learn more about the program.
“I fell in love with the kids and the message Dr. Cooks was promoting,” she said. “He was so charismatic, and his persona was so infectious and inspiring.”
However, last summer, after Davies had worked with Cooks for several months, he passed away.
“He was such a wonderful man, and I didn’t want all of the kids he had nurtured and taught to be abandoned,” she said. “I had formed an incredible connection with the kids after only eight months, and I didn’t want to lose that.”
Thus, Davies decided to create her own nonprofit, Generation Great, to continue Cooks’ legacy. Generation Great is an official nonprofit filed with the government.
“I created Generation Great on my own; however, I am not 18 yet, so my mom signed the legal documents and talked with the lawyers,” Davies said. “I did all the marketing, met with principals at local elementary schools, met with the head of the community-service department at high schools in the area, advertised the program with flyers, met with the community center where I now run my nonprofit, organized all the volunteers, contacted all the parents of the children in the program, chose a curriculum and got all the supplies. I also created forms for volunteers to fill out, created folders for each of the children and created how I was going to run my program and how everything would be set up.”
Soon, Davies will meet with people from a few community colleges and a church that has expressed interest in helping support her program and, potentially, former Mayor Kevin Johnson.
Davies spends 24 hours a week on tutoring and mentoring nine kids.
“I would love to expand the number of kids I can tutor, as I do have a waitlist,” she said. “But the number of volunteers I have does not currently permit me to expand.”
The program is staffed by local high school students who share a passion for working with kids, Davies said.
She has volunteers from Country Day, Christian Brothers, Jesuit, St. Francis and Rio Americano. She has 23 volunteers, including SCDS junior Emma Boersma.
Every Monday, Boersma tutors kids at the Oak Park Community Center and helps them with their homework.
“I’ve been apart of Generation Great since around January,” Boersma said. “I decided to join it because I needed more volunteering hours, and this seemed like a fun and convenient way to get them.”
Davies said she is thrilled that Cooks came into her life and gave her the opportunities she has.
“I am truly hopeful for the future, and I can’t wait to see where these kids go!” she said.
—By Miles Morrow