It’s National Volunteer Week April 19-25!

St. Louis Oasis would like to thank the thousands of older adult volunteers working as tutors, technology instructors and coaches, health and educational instructors, and center volunteers. Thank you for being the guiding light in our mission to promote healthy aging through lifelong learning, active lifestyles and volunteer engagement.

Al and Tonye Share Inspirational Tutor Experience

Al and TonyeIt is often said that when you put good things out into the world, they come back to you threefold. There are few more perfect examples of this than what has recently happened in the Ferguson Florissant School District where a former educator – turned Oasis tutor – was reunited with a student she taught over 30 years ago. Their commitment to their community and a passion for helping children to learn led them full circle back to each other – only this time they are working together to inspire a love of reading in children.

Becoming an Oasis tutor was an easy choice for Tonye. “When I was a first-grade teacher, I had an Oasis tutor in my classroom for several years. Her name was Fran. She was also a retired Ferguson-Florissant teacher. I always thought it would be neat to do the same thing whenever I retired. I retired in May of 2014. After the Ferguson incident, I saw an editorial in the Post-Dispatch about being a tutor, so I called. The rest is history. It’s neat being able to go back to Central Elementary. A piece of my heart will always be there.”

Al’s love of his community prompted him to accept a position that would make him the facilitator for Oasis Tutoring.

“The position I applied for as director of family and community engagement was one, after the district’s plan to redistrict, that I felt I could make the greatest impact on the community. After teaching and coaching thousands of students and athletes over the last 15 years, I felt it was time to make a bigger impact on my community. I applied and was chosen for this position. Prior to becoming the director of family and community engagement, I’d done work in the community that highlighted engagement and overall development of youth. I love Oasis Tutoring because the volunteers are aware of the importance of helping and or teaching a child to read. The work that is being done is literally saving lives. With how fast the world is changing, children are not getting as much quality attention in their homes as they once did. Oasis Tutoring sessions allow s the youth and tutors to build healthy intergenerational relationships while they give tutors the opportunity to devote quality attention to and have conversations with their students about their daily life.”

At the first tutor meeting of the year, the two were reconnected. Oddly enough, it was Al who recognized his former teacher. Tonye states,

“I do remember Albert H. and his beautiful eyes and smile that lights up a room. When I attended the first Oasis meeting that he was facilitating, it didn’t click that he was my Albert! He was Mr. H. in my head that day. I went up to him to introduce myself, and he was the one who made the connection between the two of us. We were both so surprised! I can’t tell you what year Albert was in my class, but he called me by my maiden name, and I’ve been married 32 years!”

Al believed something else had a hand in their encounter.

“In seeing Ms. Hardin (Evers) my heart was (and still is) delighted that I’ve reconnected with one of my favorite teachers from my childhood. As I begin to try to process us meeting again, I can only believe it to be fate. Tonye’s lifetime commitment to educating children was shown during her teaching career and is punctuated by her dedication to the Oasis Tutoring program,” says Al.

Both seemed over-joyed to be working with each other again. Tonye said this about being reunited with Albert in this capacity,

“ When asked how I feel about Albert now being our Oasis facilitator, I get a little emotional. I’m so proud of him and his accomplishments both professionally and personally. He is a gentleman and good man. I am humbled to have played a tiny part in his childhood.”

Al seems to feel the same about working with his former educator,

“Someone said there was a special place in heaven for great teachers and I’m certain there is a place for her. One of my fondest memories was going on a field trip to Hostess/Wonder bread when they were in St. Louis. We toured the facility and all the students, after the tour, received a Cho-co-dile snack cake, cup of Kool-Aid and a Twinkie ring. The other memory I had while in Ms. Hardin’s (Evers) class was when I got laryngitis and couldn’t talk. I remember whispering to Ms. Hardin I can’t talk, and she responded by telling me that I didn’t have to speak and if I needed to get her attention just raise my hand.”

As a current teacher, I would always wonder,

“Was I effective as a teacher to my students and would any of them ever come back and tell me? Ms. Hardin (Evers) was a tremendous teacher and all my memories of being in her class are happy memories. She made learning fun and I loved being in her class. The seeds of love and compassion she planted in me at an early age are now allowing me to plant seeds of love and compassion in my work as director of family and community engagement.”

Oasis tutors and facilitators work together to help change the lives of children. They are the proof that serving in your community is the best way to help it to thrive. This is apparent in the Ferguson Florissant School District where community members step up to ensure that children have the best chance at succeeding in school.

Volunteers are special people, impacting local communities across the country! Do you volunteer? Share your volunteer experience in the comments section.