First-Generation American Impacts Community as Tutor, Sees Path Parents Followed in Youth

By Doug Yun, Treehouse Volunteer

Since 2016, my wife and I have been volunteering with Treehouse, and for close to two years, I have had the great pleasure of working with Ahmad. I can attest to his dedication and commitment to improving his life through education and hard work. I’m honored to share my experience representing Treehouse and joining Ahmad on his journey as a mathematics tutor.

When Ahmad and I first met, I had the immediate impression that, though quiet, he was a bright and ambitious young man. As we continued to meet throughout the year, we grew more familiar with one another, and that is when he really began to shine. Ahmad enjoyed attending school and wanted to improve in his mathematics courses. I learned that in his spare time, he loves hanging out with friends and playing soccer.

Early in our tutoring sessions, we’d meet at the Rainier Beach Library. Rain or shine, we’d find a table inside the community space. It was always lively with children’s laughter, and teens and adults working or using the amenities. As we would review his math notes, Ahmad would voice his concern that he had a hard time following the class. I found myself remembering my own experiences of attending high school math classes and was sympathetic to his difficulties.

Our first series of meetings consisted of slow but steady progress. As autumn brought cooler weather, we began to get into a real rhythm. We realized that his issues with math courses were due to his lack of familiarity with the English language. To address these issues, we established a routine where Ahmad had to explain the concepts to me. In this manner, we were able to build his confidence, practice his English and reteach me algebra.

Branching Out

As time went on, we began to branch away from mathematics and started tackling other challenges. Before his final year in high school, Ahmad was eager to seek help in his English courses, apply for a part-time job and start applying for colleges.

Our earlier sessions of algebra and geometry were replaced with history and English coursework. Ahmad would read aloud the essays written for school, taking time to reread sentences out loud to catch any grammar irregularities. He sought employment and earned a part-time job in Seattle. Often working late nights, Ahmad would work on school assignments earlier in the day, and still kept up with our tutoring sessions.

In early 2020, Ahmad was ready to apply to colleges, and due to the global pandemic, we have been meeting virtually and sharing our updates online. I’m happy to share that Ahmad is attending Renton Technical College this fall. His strength and determination have been a driving force in achieving his goals!

Ahmad is someone who has traveled far away from his family and moved to multiple cities to pursue opportunity. He speaks three languages and continues to learn English as he overcomes challenges in his daily life. As a first-generation American, I understand the challenges my parents faced when they immigrated to this country, and my parents’ path shares similarities with that of Ahmad’s journey.

I’m proud to know that Ahmad is moving forward to create a new life for himself, for his future family and his community.

I love volunteering with Treehouse because it is a simple and effective way to positively impact the community we live in. If you’re interested in joining me as a volunteer tutor, please email [email protected].

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About the Author

Doug Yun is an avid musician, outdoors lover and community volunteer. Since 2016, he has been a proud volunteer with Treehouse. Professionally, Doug is an Engineering Manager at DockYard, a digital product consultancy.

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