From the December 1, 2016 Catholic San Francisco
This is the first of three Advent stories focusing on clients and volunteers served by Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
Walking into a modular classroom in the parking lot at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in East Palo Alto, you hear the sounds of children winding down from a long day at school and getting out their books and papers to begin after-school literacy class at Catholic Charities Youth Club at St. Francis of Assisi.
“Who wants to read to Ms. Herman?” Alicia, the after-school group leader yells out. A hand shoots into the air and Arlene Herman walks over to Chris, a third grader with a big smile on his face. Arlene sits down next to him and he starts reading aloud in a confident voice, eager to please.
Arlene worked as a teacher for nearly 35 years at an affluent school in Palo Alto prior to her retirement five years ago. In retirement, Arlene felt a calling to work with children who did not have as many advantages as the students who had previously filled her classrooms; children, like Chris, who come from low-income, non-English speaking households in East Palo Alto.
“I am Jewish and there’s this Hebrew word ‘tikkun olam’ which means ‘making the world a better place,’” Arlene said when asked why she volunteers her time at Catholic Charities to help the children at Youth Club. “I feel love when I come to St. Francis. For the kids, this is a place where they can be safe and where people love them and care for them. It’s a wonderful thing.”
Through dedicated homework time and tutoring, the children improve their language, literacy, math and science skills in order to close the educational achievement gap between high achieving students and those who are falling behind. Catholic Charities depends on volunteers like Arlene and donations from the community to continue providing services to children across the Bay Area.
“We believe that if we provide education and support for low-income and formerly homeless children then we can break the cycles of intergenerational poverty, “said Jeff Bialik, Catholic Charities executive director. “Thank you to everyone in the archdiocese whose gifts of time, talent and treasure have made our work possible.”
Read more at Catholic San Francisco.