From Hardship to the Highest Grade in Class: Lizzie’s Story

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Lizzie was struggling in school—especially math class.

Life hasn’t been easy for the 9th grader and her family over the past few years, ever since her father passed away unexpectedly. As the breadwinner of the family, when they lost him, they lost everything. Having previously led a financially comfortable life, they were suddenly forced to give up their home and family pets. Lizzie’s mother lives with a disability and a very small income, and it was not enough to make ends meet for the family.

On top of their family trauma, COVID-19 was swiftly shutting down classrooms around the world, forcing school-aged children into a virtual learning setting. Amidst the isolation and lost learning, Lizzie began to slip in school.

Through first working with OUR Center in Longmont and then getting connected to a case manager at EFAA, Lizzie and her mother moved into EFAA’s transitional housing in Longmont while they worked to get back on their feet. At that time, they learned about EFAA’s Children Youth and Family Program, which provides enriching activities and support for children living in EFAA’s housing sites.

After some convincing from her mother, Lizzie agreed to weekly Zoom math tutoring with Dave, a retired engineer and musician who has been volunteering with EFAA’s Children Youth and Family program for four years. EFAA started offering virtual tutoring during the pandemic when learning went online.

That’s when things began to change.

Over the past year and a half of working together, Dave became a mentor and trusted role model to Lizzie. The two have never actually seen each other or met in person—in their weekly tutoring sessions monitored by the Children’s Program Coordinator, they turned off cameras and used screen sharing to go over math homework. She began to open up to him about her struggles in school, her difficulty working with her teacher, and her self-doubts. Dave worked with her to build not only her math skills, but also her self-confidence.

These efforts paid off. In April of this year, after a midterm math test, Lizzie learned that she earned the highest grade in the whole class!

Lizzie already had the determination and smarts needed to succeed in school—all it took was one person to help her realize it. Lizzie shared with Dave that maybe she wasn’t as “bad” at math as she thought she was, and, in fact, she is pretty good at it. Today, Lizzie is thinking about taking these skills a step further by going to college to become an engineer, like Dave.

“She’s such an intelligent girl, and when life throws you a curveball like that it’s just so hard to get motivated in school,” said Lizzie’s mom. “Having EFAA and Dave there was so helpful for her, and it’s just nice to know that someone is there.”

While Lizzie and her mother are moving out of EFAA’s transitional housing (after having saved enough to move into a place of their own), Lizzie will continue to work with Dave on math homework and job applications for summer work. Lizzie’s story demonstrates the power of EFAA’s philosophy of strengthening the whole family: ensuring children have the tools they need to be successful in life and break the cycle of poverty, while ensuring household stability today. We congratulate Lizzie on her hard-earned accomplishments in school!