Grace Nicodemus has been a teacher for 20 years.
She has worked with young children in a preschool setting in the mornings, then tutoring elementary-school-aged-children in the afternoons. In 2002 she went to work with Vince Gaddis at the Vickery Meadows after school program.
As the program and need for more tutors expanded, Ms. Nicodemus followed Mr. Gaddis and his Youth Believing in Change after school program to his new classroom building on 8574 Stults Road, off Greenville Avenue, just two blocks away from DISD’s Stults Elementary School, in Lake Highlands.
In addition to tutoring up to 24 children from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, “Miss Grace” --as the children call her—also comes on Saturday mornings. She picks the children up at 9 a.m. and they are bussed to the Stults Road location where she and a handful of friends from her church tutor the children. Even her neighbor comes along to help. She typically has 10 to 12 children on Saturday for two hours.
“Many of the children are new to the country,” she explains in her soft Indian accent. “The children from Nepal and Ethiopia especially need extra time to learn better English, and catch up to their grade levels.”
Miss Grace is one of eight teachers hired by the YBC program to help the children to finish their homework, learn proper English, and learn how to love one another. Vince Gaddis took the Vickery Meadow program he started and added the spiritual element, realizing that many of the children in public school don’t get to attend church on the weekends. Miss Grace was raised Baptist, and she worked in the Prestonwood Baptist early childhood daycare until the church moved to Plano. Now she concentrates her time and energy on the public-school students who come to her classroom for tutoring 12 hours a week.
The YBC program serves nine schools: five from DISD and four from the Richardson school district, but the most students come from Stults Road Elementary School, a Public school that serves grades PK-6. It has received a “Great Schools” rating of only 3 out of 10 stars, based on academic quality, which may be the result of so many students arriving unprepared for school from their war-torn countries. However, the Community rating for the school is a perfect five out of five stars—which also may be a result of the immigrant children. They, and their parents, are so grateful to be in a safe country, where food is abundant and attending school is a safe adventure, that the joy of their gratitude is palpable.
In addition to homework review and tutoring, the children all receive a nourishing meal at about 4:00, which may be the only dinner they get that evening. Two evenings a week it’s a hot meal, and the other two evenings it’s a healthy sandwich with a side of fruit, a vegetable and milk.
Miss Grace is happy to be a part of the children’s daily experience. She says the YBC team she works with is stronger than ever before. Her co-workers are all from different cultures and backgrounds, with names like Shubinski and Rastandeh and Chamu and Perez, but they are all there for the same reason: to love and educate children.
On Thursday, February 2, the faculty enjoyed a pot-luck turkey dinner at lunch, replete with mashed potatoes, stuffing, apple and cherry pies, corn on the cobb—and quinoa. Not exactly a traditional American dish, but this group of teachers from everywhere (including Canada) enjoyed every bit of the meal as they said good-bye to one staffer headed off to finish her college degree, and welcomed a new one to the fold.
Miss Grace brought the fruit medley for the meal. Like her co-workers and students, it was a mix of delightful colors, all mixed up together, better together than apart.
"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." --Matthew 19:14
YBC is a 501©3 non-profit and is free for children ages 3 to 17. Volunteers are always welcome. Scouts needing an Eagle Scout project are encouraged to contact YBC.
For more information on Youth Believing in Change or to donate, see the website: www.ybcdallas.org
Or contact the office at 214-692-9242 after 1:00, or e-mail program director Angela Gaddis at firstname.lastname@example.org