WASHINGTON – She wants to solve crimes as an undercover FBI agent and become a famous rapper when she grows up. However,9-year-old Jimyah Bell will first have to learn fractions as she moves from third to fourth grade.
“I like learning with my tutors and friends,” said Jimayah,who attends Moten Elementary School. “They help us,they give us math,and they try to make us do right.”
With the help from Horton’s Kids tutoring sessions in math and reading,one day she will be able to solve mind-challenging crimes and create some funky rhymes and flows.
Horton’s Kids took its name and philosophy from Dr. Seuss’ “Horton Hears A Who!” The group of volunteer tutors has protected and guided the small and unseen for years – just like Horton the elephant in the story who protected a village in a speck of dust.
The organization helps more than 500 children annually and has helped thousands through community outreach programs in low income neighborhoods over 25 years.
“Horton’s mission is to improve the quality of the children’s lives and nurture their desire and ability to succeed,and we take that really seriously,” Brenda Chamberlain,Horton’s Kids executive director,said.
The organization celebrated its 25th anniversary Feb. 6 at the Cannon House Office Building. House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor,R-Va.; House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy,R-Calif.; Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer,D-Md.,and Rep. Doug Collins,R-Ga.,spoke.
“There is nothing else like people reaching out to people,” Collins said. “If people reach out,then we can be part of a solution and not always talk about the problem.”
Collins was introduced to the program by one of his staff members who tutored children on Monday evenings. Collins gave two of the children a tour of the Capitol.
Karin Walser,then a Capitol Hill staffer,began the program in 1989 after she was approached by a group of children at a gas station offering to pump her gas for some money. She was inspired to start after school programs to help children in poor communities around Washington.
The tutoring programs have been taking place on Capitol Hill ever since.
Horton’s has more than 500 volunteers who host field trips and tutoring sessions that focus on math and reading.
Chamberlain has been a tutor to children for 11 years.
“They come to us with deep needs,that are vast and very serious,but they also come to us with infinite potential,” Chamberlain said.
The program takes children beginning in elementary school to help them build strong reading and math skills. When the children enter middle school they learn to develop college,social and career skills. The program helps high school students prepare for college and their careers.
Chamberlain said that the tutors and their students sometimes create bonds
“To see the kids succeed is wonderful and that is really what keeps us going,” Chamberlain said. “A while back,the families gave us the slogan ‘Like A Second Family.’”
Rachel Gettler,34,tutor for Horton’s Kids and a U.S. Department of Education employee,said tutoring Monae Warren for three years has been great.
“I love working with the same kid every week and getting to know them,” Gettler said. “I’ve really gotten to know her really well.”
Monae,10,who is a fourth grader at Moten Elementary School,said she enjoys doing math with Gettler. She wants to be a veterinarian.
Nathan Woods,21,a political science student at Syracuse University and a Horton Kid’s alum,will be graduating from college in the spring.
“The program has given me more opportunities,” Woods said. “Every time I can come back and talk about the program and my experiences,I feel like that’s giving back.”
Horton’s Kids introduced a new scholarship that will help high school students like Woods attend college by paying for books travel and supplies. Board members pledged more than $15,000 to create a scholarship fund in Chamberlain’s name. She will be stepping down from her position in the spring.
Carrie Brown,36,a Horton’s Kids tutor and a government contractor,has been a volunteer for nine years.
She began by helping out with field trips and then began tutoring on regular basis. Her biggest accomplishment was working with a sixth-grade boy who will graduate in the spring with a degree in political science.
“There is an immense personal satisfaction,” Brown said. “I’m so proud of all the things he has done.”
This story has been updated to correct the number of children the group has helped. It works with more than 500 children a year and has helped thousands over the past 25 years.
Reach reporter Alejandro Alba at [email protected] or 202-326-9866. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.