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Evelyn Ruzensky has had a lasting impact on her student

 Alfa Ramirez fondly recalls the time she spent with her OASIS tutor

Just imagine having to leave your home, some of your family, and travel hundreds of miles to a strange city where you would have to live … and not know anyone.

For Alfa Ramirez, this was not a dream, but her reality. Moving from Queens, New York to St. Louis, Alfa didn’t know anyone, nor did she have any friends. But little did she know how much things would change for her when a woman named Evelyn Ruzensky entered her life in 2004.  
Evelyn was a tutor with the OASIS Intergenerational Tutoring program that pairs older adults with young children ages 5-10 who have underdeveloped reading and language skills.
Evelyn had heard about OASIS from a friend. Both retired, she and her husband Bob wanted to get involved in volunteering with kids. They joined OASIS and spent three years in the program as intergenerational tutors.
When first meeting Alfa, Evelyn described her as a lonely little girl who didn’t make friends at first. “She missed her Dad and her other siblings,” Evelyn said, “and when she got home from school, no one was there.”  Evelyn said she wasn’t sure how to reach Alfa. “She was so shy, just glad to have someone to talk to.” 
“I was just happy to be there with my tutor,” Alfa said, “being one-on-one, your tutor gives YOU all of the attention.”
Together, Alfa and Evelyn spent time choosing books to read and discuss. “OASIS was great,” Evelyn said, “they provided books for us to use, or we could bring books. Or sometimes the pair would make up stories. “I remember we created a story about Alfa’s life, which I kept.” Evelyn took photos which Alfa says she still has.  
During their time together in the OASIS program at Alfa’s school, they would sometimes go outside where a giant map of the United States was painted on the playground. “We would walk around on it and pretend we were in New York, where Alfa was from. She was a very imaginative child.”
For Alfa, her participation in OASIS helped her learn about life, she said. “It wasn’t just about education, it was about confidence,” she said. 
When OASIS ended for Alfa after the fifth grade, she said it was a breakthrough for her. “I was actually confident about my work.” By sixth grade, she was making friends, and she said she had a better outlook on life and school.
Today, Alfa is a 4.0 student attending high school in Florida, and hopes to become a teacher. “OASIS really made my life a better one and it was privilege to have someone help me during those times,” she said. Alfa’s love for life, reading and writing is due to OASIS and Evelyn. “She inspired me to go on and not give up.” 
For Evelyn, the joy of seeing a little girl discover her own potential to become whatever she wanted to become, was an experience she hasn’t forgotten. “It was such a rewarding time of my life,” Evelyn said.

Learn more about the OASIS Intergenerational Tutoring program.

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