Pingry welcomed its nine newest members during the Upper School Fall Awards Assembly.
By Isabella Drzala '19
As I excitedly walk through the doors of East Newark School [a public, K-8 school], I know that I will be greeted by smiling and eager young faces. The highlight of my day begins when I start tutoring basic math to my students. This opportunity to work at the school has been a gift of a lifetime and I am extremely grateful to my family friend, Diana Bras, without whom I would not have been given this life-changing experience. When I was younger, I remember that Diana would always be organizing supplies for her Middle School students at East Newark, and this piqued my interest. As I grew older, I took more interest in her work and asked Diana if I could tutor students during their 2016 Summer Program. My offer to volunteer was met with approval from the school's superintendent, Dr. Patrick Martin, and I began my work at the school tutoring rising fifth graders in math and English.
East Newark School is located in one of the lowest paid school districts in New Jersey. The school is in a predominantly Latino/Hispanic neighborhood and many of the students learn English as a second language through an immersion program at the school. Due to the varying levels of English spoken by students in the classroom, students must learn as best they can given their level of language comprehension.
Tutoring was a new experience for me and I was very excited to begin my work. Throughout the month of June, the students gradually opened up to me, sharing personal stories about their family and friends and their plans for the summer. As the month came to a close, I decided that I could not abandon these students after seeing the progress they were making, and decided to continue tutoring them twice a week after school during the 2016-17 school year.
East Newark became an integral part of my life. I was always questioning: How could I help these students understand this concept better? Or, what method would help them most to accomplish this task? It was very obvious that the differences between a Pingry education and an education at East Newark were numerous. Over time, I began to think more about how I could make a real impact on the education of students at East Newark, and the lack of technology stood out to me. We live in a world where technology skills are needed for success, and these students were given few opportunities to use technology in the classroom. Technology plays an important role at Pingry as it is often required for many classes. Because the laptops at East Newark were outdated and consequently not frequently used, my goal was to bring updated technology into their classrooms.
As I began my summer tutoring again in June 2017, I became even more determined to find a way to bring technology to the students. I set a personal goal for myself and decided to provide iPads for the school. I established an online fundraiser and within five days I had raised over $3,500, which I used to purchase 10 iPads at the Apple Store. I remember the day vividly when I walked into the classroom and presented the iPads to the middle schoolers. The excitement was overwhelming. Every day, the students used the iPads to develop their mathematical skills. Oftentimes, I would work one-on-one with students using the iPads to show them new ways to master their proficiency in mathematics.
My experience at the East Newark School has made a colossal impact on my life. It has taught me to fully appreciate the resources given to me by both Pingry and my parents. The opportunities and experiences that I have been given have helped me to shape my own future and achieve my goals. I am thankful for having been given the chance to succeed. Education is a powerful tool and I know that the students with whom I worked at East Newark have gained new skills to help them become successful in life. I look forward to continuing my adventure with them this year and being greeted by new smiling faces as I walk through the doors of their classroom.
Click here to read an article about Isabella's work with East Newark students.
Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org