In the summer of 2017, Rukaiya Sharmi ’19 was inspired to help the homeless in any way she could. Along with her friend Anna Pacheco, president of Stuyvesant’s Homeless Coalition, Rukaiya began to search for a way to help.
They founded the ‘No One Gets Left Behind’ program, abbreviated as NOGLB. The mission of this program is to help adults and children in homeless shelters realize their potential and be able to improve their situation. With the help of writer Efrem Sigel, the two students partnered with the Barrier Free Living Apartments shelter for those who are homeless or escaping domestic violence.
The launch of NOGLB took place at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. Groups of students from both Stuyvesant and Bronx Science trekked to the shelter, twice a week, to tutor. The diverse group of Bronx Science tutors include Tasnimul Rafid ’21, Mayesha Soshi ’20, Nusrat Islam ’20, Cassandra Ng ’20, Sameeha Gani ’19, Hong Sen Du ’19, Oditi Ghosh ’19, Sakshi Shah ’19, and Tasfia Tasnim ’19.
One of the adults at the shelter makes a weekly effort to invest in her education; having never gotten her high school diploma, Mercedes is now determined to finally get her GED. NOGLB formed a partnership with the testing organization, which provided them with a curriculum for the tutors to use to help students like Mercedes. A new partnership with GoMath is in the works as well, to develop complete curriculums for the kids at the shelter.
Although NOGLB’s main goal is to provide the participants in the program with an academically stimulating experience, the tutors try their best to make it as much fun as possible, especially for the kids. The kids start off each day with an icebreaker, and end each day with a “dance circle,” where they choose a song and compete to see who dances the best.
“It’s very fulfilling to see normally shy and uncomfortable kids become more comfortable with both one another and the tutors.”
The learning environment is unique and supportive, and the tutors encourage the kids to be creative and present their ideas in front of each other. Recently, the kids designed their own superheroes and villains to present to their class, an activity inspired by ‘Avengers: Infinity War.’
“It’s very fulfilling to see normally shy and uncomfortable kids become more comfortable with both one another and the tutors. It’s like they slowly realize that they’re in a safe space, with people that can actually be trusted around them,” said veteran tutor Sameeha Gani ’19. “Some of these kids have gone through tough times, and are wise beyond their years, and it’s really easy to forget that, because they’re just kids.”
But running the program can present many challenges for the tutors, who are not formally trained in childcare. “Sometimes it’s really hard for the tutors and the kids to cooperate,” Rukaiya explained. “The kids can sometimes get unmotivated to work, especially since school seems to be the lowest of their priorities. Everyday is a struggle when working with the kids, which is why we hold our tutors to really high expectations.”
The two young philanthropists plan to run a three week session over the summer. One of the new initiatives is a Big Sibs program for the kids, inspired by Bronx Science’s very own Big Sib program, with other program improvements on the way. They hope to put systems in place to solve some of this years problems, such as not having enough tutors or enough money to buy materials.
They have also taken to social media, starting to accumulate followings Instagram and Facebook profiles.