My name is Olivia Ajiake and I am originally from California. Being an out-of-state student immediately placed me as an outsider to the community, so I made it a goal to go beyond Rutgers’ culture to find connection. This led me to befriend residents, learn from nonprofit leaders, and join community organizations.
Ruth Loeffler, the former Education Director at YES, is one of those influential individuals who quickly became a mentor and personal friend. I started tutoring at YES during my sophomore year and got to learn what it was like to work one-on-one with students. At that time, there was also an after-school group for young girls called SHINE. SHINE met at YES and a friend of mine brought us in as facilitators to run activities and build positive relationships.
A few years later and I am currently getting my Master’s in Social Work in the Advanced Standing program at Rutgers. As students, we are required to get experience on the field through internships. YES came to mind again as a potential site due to a series of meetings with staff, my pastor, and the School of Social Work. In light of recent staff transitions and my interest in management/administration, I slowly started taking on the responsibilities that the Education Director would for the CAST program.
YES has challenged me to think outside of the box when it comes to educating young people. It summons my creativity, grounds me in humility, and sharpens my planning skills. A typical day looks like recruiting new tutors, matching students with tutors, checking in with tutors and BASW interns, printing worksheets, navigating behavioral issues, communicating with parents, and sometimes even stepping in as a tutor myself. Not only has my preexisting Spanish vocabulary expanded, but I’ve learned how to multitask when multiple kids are talking to you at once! When you have those special moments like teaching a 1st grader a new math concept or a heart to heart with an 8th grader, you are reminded that their futures matter and it is a privilege to be trusted to walk alongside them. An important reality to me is that the kids at YES are whole people. While academic progress is important, there are various factors that contribute to who they are and who they are becoming so we must be sensitive and proactive about these issues and needs.