Generous Teen Says His Dyslexia Helps Him Relate To Others’ Challenges
Noah Gainsburg has been volunteering at the St. Francis Neighborhood Center for years, mentoring and tutoring youth there. In recent years, he’s become a star fundraiser as well.
Christi Green, the executive director at the Center, says Noah is an extraordinary young person who is making a big difference. She particularly admires the confident way he interacts with and tutors the younger kids who are so differently situated.
Noah explains that he believes his experiencing the challenges of dyslexia helps him to relate to others, regardless of their trials.
We’ll be discussing Child Advocacy/Mentorship/Education/Poverty with Noah Gainsburg.
How are you personally affected by Child Advocacy/Mentorship/Education/Poverty?
I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was just finishing up Kindergarten. My parents knew I was super smart, but something just didn’t seem right. One day I would remember my number and letter sequences, and the next day I knew nothing. After Kindergarten, I ended up at a local school for bright students with learning differences. I attended this school for several years until my parents decided they thought it was in my best interest to mainstream to a regular, rigorous private school. In their minds, it was necessary in order for me to learn the skills I would need to survive as an adult someday in the real world, even with dyslexia. Although I know how fortunate I was to attend these very small, rigorous private schools, I never quite felt like they were “me.” I didn’t really fit into any specific clique category at school and was often bullied over my dyslexia. If I ever received a bad grade on a test, someone would go spread it around to everyone, and then I would be told how stupid I was and that I should be at school for dumb kids. The thing is, I wasn’t dumb at all. I just learned a little differently and had struggles that they weren’t willing to understand.
Because of my community service experiences throughout my life and the exposure I had to poverty, I felt more motivated and alive when I was in diverse communities, like the one I was at when I was accepted into the Civic Leadership program at Johns Hopkins. I studied alongside 100 like minded students from all over the world. Students who came all the way from Thailand. Students who were different religions than me. Students who came from entirely different socio economic backgrounds as me. The private schools I was attending did not provide that kind of diversity. As time went on, I still had a few really good friends out of school, but beyond that I kept to myself to prevent from being hurt and told I was dumb and I would never amount to anything. I learned how to take apart computers and build them from scratch which was an outlet for me until I decided to start working for the St. Francis Neighborhood Center. By Junior year, the main student would bully me switched schools which made my life easier and my academics soared, but I also stopped trying to fit in and put all of my emotional energy into volunteering at St. Francis. It was at St. Francis that I met the center’s most at-risk child who at twelve years old, was homeless, fatherless, and surrounded by addicts. Though our life experiences were vastly different, I immediately spotted his tough facade and tendency to act out, then retreat. I was that way once, too. I understood his “survival switch” that he would turn on whenever he felt like his life was out of control. We had so little, yet so much in common. He was a victim of unfair socio-economic problems; I was misunderstood and ostracized because of my dyslexia. He too has learning issues.
Helping the boy I mentor get on the right track naturally helped me. Not just him alone, but for all of the at risk kids at the center who live below the poverty line. I had to lead by example, which meant standing up for myself in a mature way and spending more time around people who lifted me up, not caring about those who put me down. I also found a community in the place I least expected it. When you have a sense of purpose – something only a true community can give you, there is no stopping you….Even if you aren’t “perfect.” It’s these struggles I had myself throughout my own life with education and my early experiences with community work, that made me want to help other kids feel confident and succeed in school…..My presence in their lives absolutely makes a difference.
What is your take on Child Advocacy/Mentorship/Education/Poverty?
It’s going to take a lot more than just me to help fix this problem, especially while I’m only in high school, but if more teens (especially privileged ones like myself) or people in general would get involved in their communities, by becoming mentors to a child, many lives would be saved. I sit up late at night with many ideas that go through my head, trying to figure out ways to make more of a difference. I have a lot of ideas, but I might not be able to truly implement them until I have my college degree. In the meantime, I am advocating for students to get more involved in their communities and for parents to stress the importance of this to their children from the time they are young.
Article about Noah: jewishtimes.com/84848/youth-in-action/arts_life/
Photo Credit: St. Francis Neighborhood Center
Noah Gainsburg’s bio:
Noah Gainsburg was born on September 26, 2000 in Baltimore, Maryland and has been a dedicated volunteer and tireless advocate for the impoverished since around 2013, and most recently for children in his own hometown at the St. Francis Neighborhood Center. Noah’s love for helping others came from his mother, Amy Mandell, who he grew up watching work in the non-profit world. His earliest memory of this was when he went with his mother to volunteer at an orphanage in Honduras in 2009. Although he was only a young child himself, this helped Noah gain valuable understanding of just how severely poverty affects children all over the world and he vowed to continue to help others in any way that he could. He continued his desire to learn about public service by volunteering in Tortola the summer of 2014, the Dominican Republic with Putney Student travel the summer of 2015, and this past summer when he attended the John’s Hopkins Center For Talented Youth, Civic Leadership Institute, which helped him find an even deeper passion for non-profit. Noah Gainsburg currently resides in Baltimore, Maryland and is a high school senior at Friends School, in Roland Park. He plans to attend college in the Fall of 2019 where he hopes to pursue an undergraduate degree in Public Policy or Sociology with a minor in Business, and then get an MBA or a Master’s degree in Public Policy. Noah plans to start his own non-profit someday, and be an entrepreneur and philanthropist
We’ll be discussing Generational Poverty with Christi Green.
How are you personally affected by Generational Poverty?
Since 100% of our youth and families that attend our youth development programming live below the federal poverty line, we are affected and see their trauma everyday, which is painful. But, my motto is to “Flip It,” and get to work. We are entrenched in one another’s lives. We are family. I personally love, care for, and support these children, and it breaks my heart to see a family go homeless, a child recruited to deal drugs because they are vulnerable, lack of health care, and unequal opportunities. As human beings, it is unfathomable to me how we can allow one another to live in a slum without heat, water, and boarded windows with everything you own packed in milk crates by the door because you are unsure how long you will be there. To watch a child be neglected and abused with drug addicted caregivers, and see the system fail time and time again. So, everyday, we focus on them and what we can do…letting kids be kids for a few hours, to feel safe and supported and see opportunity outside of day to day survival. We do this by providing amazing staff and volunteer support, education and community. Everyday I take those few hours and not take a single minute for granted, because in truth, we could lose a child or family member to violence at any moment, and we have. I personally grew up lower middle class, but never once did I worry about my safety or being homeless. This is every single day for our community. I hope for a better future for each of our kids.
What is your take on Generational Poverty?
Some people say a community center is just a babysitting service for the “bad” kids in the streets. I say that because literally, someone just told me that. When a family lives in poverty, below poverty, and for generations, it is difficult to see any other way. And, everyday is a struggle. Whether just getting to work via the bus, while getting the kids to school, how can a family pay 13k a year in after care? The alternative is the street. Out of school time, that is education based, at no cost, is critical for families in poverty. Bottom line, community centers like ours work, education based. With support and education we can end generational poverty. Everything is extremely difficult in poverty, and it is a constant struggle. What someone with a fairly good living can take care of in 5 minutes, a family in poverty may take an 8 hour day of riding buses from one side of the city to the other. We have several families how that the parents have continued their education and are finally seeing progress. But, it took a village….takes a village. It takes great schools, great city transportation, city oversight on slum lords, good policing, a system that works to protect our children and assist the families, access to support, groceries, health care, and rehabilitation, it takes a safe place for children to learn and grow after school and summer. It means being able to bathe, have clothes for an interview, job training, a bank account and a home. We may work with kids and families in school, home (We do visits to both) and offer our educational programs at no cost, we also provide resources, BUT, ultimately the parents and caregivers in the family have to make a choice. We fight with each family from beginning to end, but the family has to sign on or we can only get so far. Every child, every family has a different story at the center, and all are very tough and heartbreaking at times, but each day we remain hopeful.
Crowdfunding Campaign: bit.ly/2PPKq7Z
More about St. Francis Neighborhood Center:
St. Francis Neighborhood Center is the oldest neighborhood center providing enrichment in all of Baltimore City! Our mission is committed to ending generational poverty through education, inspiring self-esteem, self-improvement, and strengthening connections to the community. We are mostly known for youth development programs and resources for children and families living below the federal poverty line.
Christi Green’s bio:
In October 2012, Chrisi Green was hired as Executive Director of the St. Francis Neighborhood Center. Christi has a B.A. in Speech Communications from Miami University of Ohio; and a M.A. in Theological Studies from the University of Dayton with an emphasis on education and counseling. She has nearly 20 years of nonprofit executive management. Christi has a unique mix of corporate and nonprofit experience including top steel sales for a steel service company and year with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. What brought Christi to Baltimore in 2010 from Ohio was to work for Corporate Sylvan Learning Center, Baltimore, as a Flagship Center Director for the nation, setting the precedent as the number one corporate center for sales and education loans. However, missing the nonprofit sector, St. Francis Neightborhood Center stole her heart.
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