Lauren’s House: Empowering Youth

2 mins read

Cover image courtesy of Monique Graves

Lauren’s House 4 Positive Change is an East Palo Alto-based nonprofit that provides free tutoring for underprivileged students across San Mateo County. Volunteers at Lauren’s House focus on different programs including tutoring and mentoring, family support, meals and transportation, and cultural enrichment.

Student volunteers play a big role in running the organization, taking on a variety of roles such as tutors/mentors,  youth activity leaders, sports leaders, photographers, program assistants, grant writers, social media coordinators, or website designers. 

In 2009, founder Monique “Mo” Graves, was tutoring her daughter, Lauren, and her friends after school at her house when she asked one of them why  they always ask Mo for help instead of anyone at home and the girl said “You are the smartest person I know.”

This inspired Mo to found Lauren’s House and provide free tutoring and other recreational services to kids in the area who don’t have the support or resources necessary to succeed in life.  Mo said, “I wanted to make a safe community for people to go to when they need help.” During the school year, around ten students regularly attend tutoring sessions, and during the summer, 20-30. 

Tutoring sessions take place at the Belle Haven Library, where students go after school. Mo assigns a tutor to each student, and they work together for an hour. Then, students go outside and play games with the tutors and fellow peers.

Mo recalled a favorite memory from Lauren’s House, saying, “One day in the summer, all of the kids had come to the church and we had a wild water fight.” Lauren’s House is a place where kids can learn as well as engage in fun, student-led activities with their peers. 

Some of the most gratifying moments for Mo are when she speaks to parents: “It is cool for me to hear when one of the parents tells me that their child never enjoyed reading until one of our read-a-thons. It is really rewarding to hear from parents that a change is happening.”

M-A Alumna Devin Yau, who participated in Lauren’s House, said, “It is really fulfilling helping other kids learn. I myself have experienced trouble in school so I know how hard it is to learn things on your own.”

In the future, Mo plans to expand Lauren’s House. “I hope to see more resources, where we aim at preschoolers and have more preventative measures in place. I see maybe having a larger building complex for Lauren’s House that different populations can access.”

Mo also plans mental health seminars on how to help students who are struggling. She said, “I am a school-based therapist. In certain communities, including my own, we don’t think too much about our mental health. So, the idea for last Friday’s mental health seminar was to provide tools and coping strategies to tutors for what to do for kids who have been triggered by something. It is important to know when to apply pressure and when to move on.”

Mo added that there is sometimes a shortage of volunteers, and that many of them are online. “Having people physically present is very important because the kids are more engaged when a person comes in through the door rather than a computer,” she said.

Another challenge that Mo described is the lack of Spanish-speaking tutors. Many students who need assistance do not speak English or are currently learning it as a second language. 

The team at Lauren’s House works to improve the education of kids in the Bay Area and if you are interested in joining their team, use this link to apply now.

Nava is a junior at M-A. This is her first year in journalism. She hopes to write about world wide issues that affect the M-A family. In her free time, she like to read, play volleyball, debate, and play piano.

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