March 17, 2020 Category: Stories

A Mentor and Friend: The Impact of an After-School Tutoring Program

“Giovanni has this sense of capability and can-do willingness that’s really inspiring,” Matt Goulet, a volunteer tutor for the Career Awareness Program (CAP), said. “I’ve lived in New York for 10 years and, for me, it took a while to learn that, but for him, it’s innate.” 

Two years ago, Matt was looking for an opportunity to volunteer his time when a friend shared their experiences tutoring at The Fresh Air Fund. “There was an appeal of having a one-on-one impact with kids directly in the city,” Matt recalls. “I also wanted to be a part of an organized program, and The Fresh Air Fund organization was really appealing.”

In the fall of 2018, Matt reached out to The Fund and started the interview, screening and background check process. Soon after Matt was asked to complete a matching form providing more information about his professional and educational experience, and Matt was matched with Giovanni, a CAP and high school student from Brooklyn.

Volunteer Career Awareness Program Tutor Matt with Fresh Air camper Giovanni during a tutoring session.

Giovanni, now 15 years old, has been a Fresh Air camper since he was nine years old. “Camp is a bonding experience. You get to meet new people – other kids and the counselors,” says Giovanni. For the past two years, he’s attended Camp Mariah, where he participates in traditional camping activities like swimming and hiking while exploring his interests in classes like photography, dance, international relations, culinary arts and fashion. “I learned how to write a resume in the Careers class,” Giovanni said, “and it was the first time where I created one properly. I’ve learned a lot in other classes like art and coding.”

Matt really enjoys mentoring and looks forward to the tutoring sessions – Mondays at 6 p.m. when he gets to work with Giovanni. Since 2018, they’ve built a great mentorship and friendship. “It’s always good to talk to Matt about school when I’m stressed,” Giovanni shares. “And Matt can relate to me from his prior experience.” 

Matt has encouraged Giovanni to expand his horizons, from simple things that can make a big difference like showing him the kids section on The New York Times to answering questions about how elections work and the importance of voting. 

“I think our time together extends beyond helping Giovanni do well at school – we talk about being an engaged citizen and part of your community,” Matt said. 

Giovanni recently approached Matt with a school assignment to recite the Gettysburg Address. They’ve worked on projects for his speech class before, but he seemed particularly nervous about this one. They practiced — a lot — together to make sure that Giovanni was confident and prepared. “I think these moments where a student kind of surprises themselves, and they end up being passionate about something unexpected, and you can kind of guide them along the way ends up being a lot of fun and really rewarding.”

“It’s a good impact for the time commitment that you put in,” Matt said. “Mentoring with The Fresh Air Fund is really engaging, and you get a greater sense of your connection to the city and the people you live amongst every day.”

Learn more about volunteering as a Fresh Air mentor.