Thanks to Joe Distelheim of Hilton Head Island for sharing a story from his volunteer work on the island.
'Jorge Torres and Magina Villava'
By Joe Distelheim
Jorge Torres, a seventh-grader at Hilton Head Island Middle School, is going to Washington, D.C., this summer to participate in a weeklong leadership conference with other bright kids from around the country.
Good for him. He earned the honor by working hard for good grades and participating in worthwhile extracurricular activities. But he likely wouldn't have had such an opportunity if not for:
"I guess it's really just getting kids to believe in themselves," she said. She remembers Jorge as "a really nice boy, caring, helpful" -- and not a struggling student at all.
"Her classmates can't even imagine such an honor," said Magina's volunteer tutor, Ruth Brenner. "They saw this as more than one family's struggle.
"To me, this was a lesson in how a community gets behind and gets somebody help."
And that might not be the best part of the story. It was the students who spend evenings learning English and improving their reading who decided to help their classmate and her son raise money. They went through the process of figuring out how, and got help from other LVL tutors and some donors.
The conference Jorge will attend is one of several such private enterprises built around Washington trips for young people. It offers instruction in leadership issues, well-known speakers and opportunities to visit the capital's noted sights -- first on Jorge's wish list is the Lincoln Memorial. Seventh-grade teacher Rochester has had students attend in the past, and has gotten good reports.
The $1,300 the students raised will cover a good chunk of Jorge's conference expenses, but not all. His parents, who won't be allowed to be with him while he stays in a dorm and attends the conference, plan to drive him to Washington D.C.
"We're sort of scared," said Magina, "because we've never let him go anyplace without us. I hope he gets something good from it." Jorge's parents have never been to Washington, either. They're trying to find an affordable place to stay.
Jorge, now 13, has two younger brothers, with whom he gets along well, though "they can be annoying sometimes." His favorite subject is social studies, but he likes, science, too. He won his school's science fair grand prize for a project on how temperatures affect butterflies. He's into robotics and plays soccer.
And he's happy to show off a list of his grades -- none lower than 98 -- in a list of classes that don't sound like what those of an earlier generation remember of seventh grade: advanced science; advanced social studies; algebra; computer technology; "Gifted and Talented" English; and Spanish.
Spanish? Doesn't he speak Spanish?
"Yes, but I don't write it as well."
He doesn't know what he wants to do as an adult. He does know that before then, he wants to go to "a good college." And he knows that in the immediate future, the last week of June, he'll be mixing with other smart, ambitious youngsters.
With help from lots of people.