Valentine’s Day is a day reserved for loving gestures to those around us. I’ll be the first to tell you I love holidays on this level, and I waste no time gearing up for them prior to their arrival. However, this year, I find myself yearning to broaden my horizon and think of those outside my immediate circle — people who have made the difference for my family and me.
This year, my dearest Valentine goes out to a program that has made an extraordinary impact in the life of my son and the many other countless parents and students who live in the Wake County area. I’m referring to the Wade Edwards Foundation. Specifically, the Wade Edwards Learning Lab or the WELL as this incredible program is known.
I not only love the WELL, but adore it. The people who work there have dedicated their lives to enriching the students who walk through their doors each day. What this organization does is not just the basic afterschool programs that we often hear about. Sure, a student can receive tutoring and help with homework, even with college applications and entrance exam preparation. However, the WELL extends beyond these offerings. For many, like my son, the WELL is a game changer – a life altering agent that far exceeded anything we expected from an afterschool program.
When my son walked through the doors of the WELL, he was already a great student and excelled academically. We knew he was considering attending a university and contemplating a career in engineering. But, while he had excellent grades and an idea of what he wanted to do beyond high school, he, unfortunately, lacked leadership skills and the self-confidence for a professional career. More comfortable taking a role that would leave him unnoticed by his teachers, he often faded in the background. He rarely spoke up in class, and when he did, it was only because he’d been prompted or in need of a class participation grade.
However, the WELL’s programs changed him within a few months of his participation. My husband and I began to see a stark transformation in his demeanor. Instead of telling us that he was in a project team in class, he would announce that he was the team leader. Our son also began to become more socially engaged and to our surprise began developing new friendships. Not only did he improve his social skills, but he also began peer tutoring, engaging in community service work, and eventually working after school, gaining important life skills and training. Our son was changed, and I am confident that the WELL planted the seeds that gave rise to this new confident child.
I never imagined that life would become so different for our child. Through the WELL’s ambassadorship program and community service opportunities, our son not only cultivated his leadership skills; but realized the value he could offer to those around him. I am probably not alone in my affection for the staff and the generous volunteers that make up the Wade Edwards Foundation’s programs. I’m sure there are parents that are just like me, in awe of the sacrifices each member of the staff makes to enrich the lives of the families and students they touch. And like me, they’re most grateful for a staff that does so well at connecting with children and helping them see their potential.
So as I write this Valentine, I am not just appreciative for the WELL, but I am also indebted to it. The WELL saw the possibilities in my child and while others may have missed what he was capable of becoming, the staff of this organization didn’t. Now, a full scholarship recipient and research assistant at a Big Ten university, my child has a whole new world opened to him. I can say confidently that the WELL had a great deal to do with it. Composed of a staff that genuinely cares, this compassionate organization works not just for children’s academic success but personal success, too.
So today, while many of us will be taking the time to share love with the people in our lives that matter, I find myself wanting to share my appreciation for the WELL and thankful that they offer a safe afterschool program with the capacity to grow today’s youth into confident young leaders.
– Carolyn Alvarado