by Lilla Hassan
Lilla is a Loretto Volunteer working as a Site Coordinator at For Love of Children, which provides tutoring and educational services to students in D.C.
When you are young, everyone asks you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” When I was younger, my answer was a doctor. The person who I look up to as one of the most virtuous beings in my life is my father, and he is a doctor. I was born in a place that for centuries has been the center of religion and politics: Rome, Italy. My family is originally from Somalia, but my parents moved to Italy in their 20’s to attend medical school. When I was six, my family made the decision to move to the States in search of a better education for me and my two brothers. Even as a young child, I operated under the assumption that if I worked hard, any goal was well within my reach. However, my perception shifted dramatically after a single day working at For Love of Children.
For Love of Children (FLOC) is a non-profit organization that provides educational services beyond the classroom to help students succeed from first grade through college and career. Our goal is to see our students succeed in the classroom, successfully complete a post-secondary degree, and thrive in the working world. All of our tutors are volunteers who teach our students from the FLOC curriculum. During my time at FLOC, I have been deeply moved by watching students who attend failing schools go to great lengths to succeed despite having the odds stacked against them. During my time at FLOC, I have found a sense of satisfaction, to an extent that I could have never fathomed, in helping these students succeed in school.
I find it so intriguing to see that these children remain so unscathed by the limitation placed on them not due to a lack of abilities, but simply due to their zip codes. In their eyes, the world is so pure, everyone so loving and caring, and everyone is equal regardless of any differences. I have begun to see the world through a different lens due to their optimistic views on life. Every day I am elated at their success as if they were my own. Each one of my kids has taught me something different with perseverance being a common theme amongst them all. At the beginning of my service term, FLOC enrolled a third grade girl. She came to us way below her grade level in mathematics. She still had not grasped the basic concept of numbers. I worked with her and the tutor to prepare her to pass her numbers exam so we could help her reach the learning level at which she should be. For months we were stuck and did not seem to be making any progress. One day, she came to me and said “Ms. Lilla I want to test today. I have been practicing saying my numbers, and I think I can do it”. Thirty minutes later, she came running down the hall with a slip of paper in her hand. She had finally done it! She had passed her test. She ran into my arms, and we jumped around chanting her name, other staff joining in as we celebrated her success.
At FLOC, I have never seen a group of staff so personally invested in their students’ success. We celebrate each child’s success as another step toward closing the education disparities amongst the minority population in Washington, DC. Each time one of my kids makes a stride closer to being at the appropriate academic grade level, each day we enroll another child into our program, and I see the smile of hope in their parents’ eyes, each day a parent calls and says that their child’s grades have dramatically improved, that’s when I know my job is worth it. I am committed to correcting injustice by using education to help poverty-stricken children rise above the limitations placed upon them by society. Just like an old African proverb my mother used to recite to me, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and I’m glad that, at FLOC, we are all so invested in our children.
In Their Own Words
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