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In my time working at the Durham Literacy Center, I have been lucky enough to get to know a number of people who work and live in the Durham area. From staff to students who come for tutoring, everyone has an interesting and unique backstory. I know it sounds rather cliché, but it is truly refreshing to be surrounded by new people that bring experiences to the table that I could not have even imagined. These tales of hardship and success are what motivate me to go into work everyday and give back as much as I can to these people.

There is one story of connection that has stuck out to me the most.

There is one student that I have been paired with most in my time tutoring at the Literacy Center. (For the sake of anonymity, I won’t include his name in this post.) We didn’t meet until my second week working during the summer. However, the staff planned on the two of us spending the majority of our time working together so we could form a close connection and figure out the best ways to work together. Honestly, when I heard that I was to be paired with the same student throughout my time there, I was a little nervous. I don’t often feel anxious when it comes to meeting new people. But this situation made me feel as if I needed to be the best version of myself so as to make the student feel like he was in the best situation for success possible. From the moment we got started, I knew that there was a special connection forming.

As the first few days of tutoring began, our synergy continued to grow. For every math problem that I helped him navigate or new technique I tried getting him to master, he taught me a lot of about where he comes from and often how difficult it can be for him to even get to the center for tutoring everyday. I learned that no matter the circumstances that you currently find yourself in, there is always a way to find success and stay motivated. We have spent weeks working on his math skills so he can be ready to get his GED and advance to new heights. Although he may think that this is a one-way transaction, with me providing him free tutoring, it is not. Everyday we converse on things like life, work, and sports. What he doesn’t know is how much I also benefit from this working relationship. I know that my impact on his future success is marginal. But his impact on my perspective is more than I could have asked for. That is why I chose to be a DukeEngage participant, for the unquantifiable value of this experience.