Families who are experiencing homelessness tend to move pretty frequently, due to a number of reasons. Homeless students change schools an average of 3 times while homeless. For our volunteers, this means that they may see the students we tutor anywhere from one week to a month or so. However, at our transitional living facilities, the families can stay for up to two years. In these situations, our volunteers and students form strong relationships. This school year volunteer Lori Crantford has experienced this with a kindergarten boy, Raymond, who she tutors weekly.

Lori and Raymond have a special bond. I’ve heard about their relationship from some of our staff and from Lori. Typically, in tutor spotlights, I write about our tutors but this one is going to go a little differently. Recently, Lori wrote me an email that so beautifully described her time with Raymond that my words would be wasted, so I’ll let you hear from Lori instead:

He’s incredibly bright, inquisitive, imaginative and has a dangerous amount of charm. I’ve worked with kids as a volunteer when my boys were little. I’ve never met a kid like Raymond. While at tutoring this year, I’ve been hugged, had Goldfish cracker bits spit on my face as he talked with his mouth full and asked to say “Ahhhhhh!” so he could check out my cavity fillings. He got irritated with me one night — and me with him — and he said to me “I think it’s 6:30.” A passive/aggressive hint that it was time for me to leave. And I was given the superhero name of Mrs. War Machine, whispered in my ear by War Machine himself.

There’s so much more. Like engaging Raymond when he got distracted finishing a homework coloring assignment. I saw a path to the end and said I saw a racetrack – could he race to the finish? This brought on an enduring coloring/racing scenario, complete with color commentators, if you will, demanded by Raymond and named Steve and Bob by me. Each week, Steve and Bob would call “Raymond Crayon Motorcycle Races.” We’d start each by saying, “On your mark. Get set. Stay in the lines. Go!” Steve and Bob (voiced by me) would call each “race” and would, inevitably, be amazed at Raymond’s ability to win despite crashing outside the lines on a regular basis. The best moment came when I was voicing Steve and Bob when Raymond suddenly halted me. “No no!” he declared. “Bob’s voice is higher than Steve’s!” He was right. I had misvoiced our made-up commentators, but Raymond’s so bright he noticed right away.

The bond I feel with Raymond is strong. I know when he leaves this location he will leave my life. I will worry for him, for what’s next in his world, for what he could be with the right influences. From what I see of Raymond, his mom is doing a great job. I’m impressed and have nothing but respect for her. I’m also a single mom, divorced since my now 22- and 21-year-old sons were in 4th and 5th grade, but my situation is nothing like hers. I don’t know how she and her family came to be where they are in life, but we all need help from time to time. I certainly did, and I’ll always be grateful for the help I received when I needed it most.

I know my job is to tutor, and care, as kids move along and new ones come in. I’m sure this happens often with tutors and students, that bonds form. One of the reasons I chose School on Wheels is due to a friend who volunteers weekly. She posted a note on Facebook that she got from a student she was working with. It said something like “Miss L is the best teacher in the whole world.” I looked at that and thought “I want to be that for a child.” So I signed up.

When Raymond moves on, I will grieve. I will worry. And I will smile, looking back at the joy he has given me. I will never forget him. He has a piece of my heart.

As an organization, we are lucky to have Lori as a volunteer tutor. We know that due to the nature of the population we work with, relationships like Lori’s and Raymond’s are not feasible at every location. We also know that even if you don’t work with the same student every week and only see a student for a handful of times, as a person who cares and who is present, you do make a difference!

Thank you, Lori, for making such a positive impact on Raymond!

Want to read more stories like Lori’s? Check out our other Tutor Spotlight blogs!