For more than 20 years, students at Brooks School have been volunteering as tutors at Bellesini Academy in neighboring Lawrence, Mass.
“It means a lot to our students to have Brooks students taking the time to get to know them and help them succeed academically,” said Bellesini Academy Head of School Julie DiFilippo. “They really look forward to their weekly visits.”
Now, thanks to a new initiative during Brooks’ Giving Day, everyone in the Brooks community can join in supporting the middle school dedicated to students from limited financial means. For each gift made on February 9, Brooks will donate a much-needed school supply to Bellesini.
The contributions “will provide supplies to assist our students in their academic classes and our after-school program, which offers sports, recreation, STEM, art, music and many other activities every school day,” said DiFilippo.
Bellesini was also a big winner in Brooks’ Winter Term “Passion to Pass It On” philanthropy class last month. The student group who represented the academy during the course — culminating in four teams “pitching” non-profits to a panel of judges who would decide which presentation was most compelling (shown above) — triumphed. The group earned Bellesini the bulk of a grant provided for the contest: $2,500. “As a tuition-free school serving Lawrence students, Bellesini is very grateful,” said DiFilippo.
Of course, Brooks students benefit from the relationship between their schools, too — as much today as when the partnership began. (After-school tutoring turned into the current weekly, hour-long evening homework help with 10 Brooks volunteers in 2011).
Eva Karoly ’25 (above on far right) finds joy in helping the young students with their homework, including projects in reading, grammar, math, history and science. “They make me smile every time I go and I always look forward to seeing them on Tuesdays,” said the fourth former, on her second year of tutoring at Bellesini (who participated in the “Pass it On” Winter Term team that scored Bellesini their win).
The feeling seems to be mutual. “I have worked with the same girl all of this year and she just lights up when we come to visit. . . . We always have really good conversations,” said Karoly.
“They are great kids,” agreed Bella Hacker ’24 (below on right), who describes her contribution as helping “keep the students on task to get their work done so that they’re able to go home without homework.”
The Brooks students who head to Bellesini around 6:30 p.m. each week vary, but the same group of middle schoolers typically attends.
“The kids usually remember us and want to be paired with the same person as the week before,” said Hacker. “They get really excited and they just want to tell us all about what happened in their day at school and it’s great. We usually talk for a few minutes and then try to get some of their homework done. Each week that goes by is new and exciting.”
It’s all about the bonding for Hilary Young ’24. “We make great connections with the students we tutor and it’s always such a fun time,” she said. “There’s a great balance of [joking around] and learning when we tutor them. Going every week, we are able to form those connections with the students, which makes the experience memorable.”
Building on Tradition
Lillian Miller has been supervising (and driving) Brooks volunteers to Bellesini Academy for the past decade (the photo above is from 2013). Her three children are past participants in the program, which she is thrilled to watch going strong today.
“What makes this program so special is that it is not a mandatory one for our students,” said Miller, a Spanish teacher and advisor to the campus affinity group Alianza Latina (shown below on right in a flashback photo). “They decide to give their time after a long day of school and activities to tutor the Bellesini students.”
Turns out, that self-motivation is pretty inspiring. “Year after year tutoring at Bellesini catches on with students,” she added, “because volunteers talk to their friends about it and more students want to come!”
Current students: Interested in volunteering at Bellesini Academy? Check your email on Mondays for the Tuesday sign-up or contact fellow tutors and Mrs. Miller.