Giggles erupt in the media center at Hillandale Elementary School as students and tutors sit together, flipping through books, sharing stories of their lives, and forging an unbreakable bond. At the helm of the Hillandale Tutoring Program is Peter Marcotte, lovingly known as Pepop by all the students. When he began volunteering at the school three years ago, he fell head-over-heels for the kids and their youthful joy, energy, and creativity. Determined to help out more little ones, Pepop worked to bring volunteers from Croasdaile, a retirement community located just 5 minutes away, to help kids who were struggling in the classroom one-on-one. Little did he know that this program would go so far beyond just helping the students to read and write. Driven by an unfettered love for their pupils, the tutors bond with them on a much deeper level, becoming quasi-grandparents -- people they can trust and be themselves with, people that make them excited to come to school. They help them to read and write so that they are confident to tackle new academic challenges on their own. They teach them to respect and be kind to people different from themselves so that they have the courage to listen and share ideas with their classmates. And, most importantly, they shower them in unabashed love so that they learn to love and appreciate each other.
Closer looks into the lives of individual tutors reveal how rewarding it is to be an educator and to positively influence young people. Elaine Scagnelli dedicated her life to teaching and still loves it to this day. She cannot help but smile when she sees her students growing in confidence, courage, and curiosity. Ruth Ambrosius radiates an aura of warmth and positivity, encouraging kids to express themselves. She has developed deep meaningful bonds with her students, who run up to hug her whenever they see her. Carter Bennett always comes to Hillandale with a bright, beaming smile, ready to shape the minds of the future. He is known around Croasdaile for his infectious humor and multitude of stories about his Hillandale students and their escapades. While the tutors help their students to grow as learners and as people, they also continually learn from them. They rediscover what it means to be shamelessly enthusiastic, fiercely loving, and truly young at heart.