Pasco students learn 'life-changing' lessons

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldDecember 18, 2012 

Liban Tushar has a simple explanation for why he goes to the Family Learning Center after classes are out at his school.

"I want to learn," said the 8-year-old third-grader, adding that no one at his home can really help him with his homework.

Monday, the center, which caters to refugees and their children, welcomed a few new students but they came for a different kind of lesson.

Kingspoint Christian School in Pasco stopped by with donations of school supplies and other treats for the center's young students. The donations and help were part of an annual project where they give back to the community, but unlike past years, the Kingspoint students wanted to see who they were helping face-to-face.

"Because that can be life changing," said Christina Kotilainen, a former Kingspoint teacher and adviser to the school's associated student body.

Theresa Roosendaal, director for the center, said she and a handful of other teachers had operated the center for about four years, primarily for the Burmese and Somali refugees in the neighborhood.

Using a two-bedroom apartment on Olympia Street, the center provides English classes for adults during the day and helps out students, many of them from Westgate Elementary School, with homework in the afternoon.

As many as 20 to 30 students work on everything from reading to math when they come each day. Many of their parents don't speak English and aren't able to help them, and the center also has supplies for them to do schoolwork.

A teacher at Kingspoint knew of the center and talked to students and others about helping. Roosendaal said it was agreed they would give school supplies and other materials.

"We really wanted them to provide stuff so the kids could learn at home," she said.

Deja Garza, a 16-year-old junior at Kingspoint and the school's ASB president, said students spent a week collecting school supplies. There were general donations for the center but also individual gift bags with pencils, crayons, a coloring book and some candy.

Kotilainen said the school has contributed to other charitable causes in the past, including a food drive and Operation Christmas Child, an international charity. This year, though, they wanted to stay local.

Deja said she had a newfound appreciation for her own life.

"I take pencils and stuff for granted," she said.

Aylah Perry, a seventh-grader at the school, said she enjoyed helping the youth with their schoolwork, and was amazed at how well she could communicate with them and how much they knew.

"They're normal people like us," said the 12-year-old, who decked out in reindeer antlers and bells for the visit.

And center's students definitely didn't mind the break from their studies. A number could be seen happily taking inventory of what was in their gift bags.

"They're nice," Liban said.

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