One small act of kindness can change a life

“Rose would rather have a book than anything. Take her to a bookstore and she’s in heaven.”

So says Experience Corps volunteer Rich Yurman, now in his third year of tutoring with Rose, a fourth grader at Sunset Elementary school. Rich originally began working with elementary school children out of a frustrated desire to be a grandfather.

In 2005, Rich was working with a group of children in an after school program helping them to write poetry. “While the other kids were struggling to write one poem, Rose would write five poems,” he recalls. That’s when he began working one-on-one with the then-second grader.

Rich’s background as a poet, writer, and college English instructor is a perfect fit for Rose’s interests. “Rose is into books, reading, and is just generally fascinated by language,” says Rich. “We talk about more than just her writing of poems and stories. We talk about words, where they come from, what they mean, what she gets out of a word in the context of a story. She is an amazingly gifted child.”

Their first year together, Rich and Rose wrote poetry. At the end of the year Rich put together a book of all the poems she had written. The second year, Rose wrote a group of connected stories and again Rich put them together in a book. As they recently embarked upon their third year together, Rose seemed a little bored with writing poems and stories. Rich felt she was ready for more critical reading. “As soon as I said we could do something like I used to do with my students in college,” he says, “she lit up.”

Rich observes that many people are reluctant to volunteer because they don’t think they have much to offer. He believes otherwise. “The most important thing we’re bringing is individual attention, which a kid absolutely loves – to be picked out and have someone paying attention to what they’re doing and saying.”

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