March 5, 2014

Building Bridges

by Sara Winnick '14

Sara Winnick '14 is the Community Events Coordinator for BRYTE (Brown Refugee Youth Tutoring and Enrichment Program). Sara reflects on her past four years working with the Providence refugee community.

As a BRYTE tutor I “got off the hill,” but now as a coordinator, “off the hill” is included in my definition of campus.

I hurried to Kennedy Plaza last Friday, whiteboard in backpack and brownie pan in hand, dreading the lonely bus ride to tutoring ahead. I was so focused on not missing my bus that I almost didn’t hear the refugee high school student I worked with at BRYTE Summer Camp this summer call out my name. Without breaking my stride, I quickly convinced him to come tutor with me, emphasizing the delicious brownies that would soon materialize if the eggs in my backpack hadn’t already broken. I was grateful for the extra set of hands when we arrived at my tutee’s house; three of her cousins (all former campers of ours from BRYTE Camp) were over. Within the hour, their three tutors knocked on the door. Later that afternoon, as I walked my co-counselor home, we passed another BRYTE tutor taking his tutee to the library. At my co-counselor’s house, I sat and visited with his younger brother, another camper at BRYTE Camp.

Every week, more than 120 Brown students spend more than three hours in homes across Providence. What may seem like a Band-Aid fix to refugee resettlement issues (providing supplemental tutoring service instead of changing schools institutionally to deliver much-needed wrap around services refugee students) is becoming systemic change as BRYTE enters its eighth year of operation. My tutee had a tutor before I got here and will have another one when I leave. We will have worked together for four years.

What has been equally important to providing BRYTE students with someone to help them with fractions or take them to the Children’s Museum are the connections being made through BRYTE between Brown students and Providence residents; the bridges that are forming between Brown’s campus and Providence’s South Side. Before becoming a BRYTE coordinator, I would never have imagined seeing more people I knew after I arrived at Kennedy Plaza than I did as I walked through the main green to get there. As a BRYTE tutor I “got off the hill,” but now as a coordinator, “off the hill” is included in my definition of campus.

By overseeing twenty BRYTE volunteers and planning community events, I realize every day the incredible scope of the BRYTE organization. As I read my tutors' weekly progress reports, I witness the beautiful connections taking place every day in homes throughout the city. After planning events that will bring our community together, I meet my tutors’ tutees and see their relationships in person. Now, when I go down to tutor, it is less and less likely for my bus rides to be lonely. More often, I am reminded of the diverse, joyful community that I have had the privilege to join during my time at Brown.

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