Member Spotlight: Building Lasting Bonds
Boost! West Oakland is an after school tutoring and mentorship program. It was founded in 1997 by Joan and Howard Poulter as a response to how they could best provide help to West Oakland youth and schools. Their partnership with Lafayette Elementary School responded to the need for academic improvement in West Oakland schools as well as to create a program that would encourage students to strive for excellence. Not only does Boost! provide a one-to-one tutoring program for elementary school students but they also have monthly field trips for the students, family engagement opportunities, and workshops for tutors to best serve the needs of young students in West Oakland.
We sat down with Ty-Licia Hooker the Executive Director of Boost! West Oakland and AJ Adams a tutor and staff member. We had an opportunity to talk about the history of Boost!, their most exciting moments, and their core values of community involvement, student-centered support, and of course fun!
AJ Adams and Ty-Licia Hooker with four Boost! West Oakland students.
What do you think Boost!’s hidden talent is?
AJ Adams – I would have to say, bringing down walls is our hidden talent. We have the ability to reveal each other and show one another who we truly are. Coming in, tutors don’t know what to expect from the students and students don’t know what to expect from their tutors. After a couple of weeks after they have warmed up to each other both sides are surprised by the possibility of a bond and the way that bond develops. When the Poulter’s started this program they were asking how they could become more familiar with their community. This is one of the best opportunities for folks in West Oakland to really get to know the kids that grow up here.
Do you have a favorite anecdote or story to share?
Ty-Licia Hooker- One of my favorite stories would have to be between a student-tutor pair that were together from when the student was in Kindergarten through 5th grade. What was amazing was that the student’s mom had also participated in Boost!. To be able to see generations go through Boost! not only shows the longevity of the program but also the importance of family. To this day, both the mom and the daughter keep in touch with their tutors.
Tell us about an “Aha” moment.
AJ- I’ve had several “Aha” moments while at Boost!. As a tutor my focus was between myself and my student during our tutoring sessions. As I developed an idea of what everyone did at Boost! I came to understand that not only did Michael and I have this important bond and these important 90 minutes together but that the other pairs of students had this incredible bond as well. That kind of clicked for me that Boost! is incredibly important for the community.
Ty-Licia – One thing that I felt that was an “Aha” moment and a reinforcement that I was doing a good job was at a Lafayette school board meeting during a transitional period. At the meeting, we had parents advocating one, for their school to stay open but two, advocating for Boost! to go wherever they went. I knew then that I was so thankful that we had invested relationships with parents through doing parent workshops, inviting parents on our field trips, and having parents serve as volunteer tutors. That moment drastically changed how our relationship moved forward. Boost! is not only the people working behind the desk, it is everyone in the community working together. We are strictly coming from the community. Whether that’s a parent or a tutor donating, this organization is funded by the community.
Why did you want to join the OLC Member Network?
Ty-Licia- Boost! fundamentally believes in the academic support of students. Our mission is that we want to support students academically and holistically in their mentorship role with their tutors. I came across OLC from a forwarded newsletter and immediately thought that this was the type of work we wanted to be a part of. We were focused on literacy and wanting kids to have great outcomes in literacy development, reading, and writing and thought that this is an organization that we need to be tapped into. After my first meeting I realized that there were so many other Executive Directors that were battling the same issues that I was. Suddenly I didn’t feel alone. I thought, “Here I am working alone…but there are also people 10 minutes away from me in my same community dealing with similar issues,” this gives us an opportunity for collaboration.
Finally, how would you describe Boost! in three words.
Community, Student-centered, Fun.