Club Spotlight: JaxTHRIVE creates community through tutoring
October 24, 2021
On the weekends, Audrey Cheng (‘22) and Yasmina Chahlavi (‘22) lend their time to sit down and tutor refugee kids of many ages—kids who have left the only home they have ever known with little to no preparation and arrived in a strange, new country. All while being expected to understand the rules, language, and new atmosphere.
It all began when two local Jacksonville high school students, Grace Freedman, Yale University (‘24), and Chase Magnano, Princeton University (‘25), had observed this problem and wanted to help. In 2017, the now Ivy League school attendees founded a club in Jacksonville, targeted to help refugees that arrived in Florida. With the goal of helping the refugee kids stay on top of their schoolwork, the club began arranging tutoring sessions with refugee families. This small organization, JaxTHRIVE, grew, taking on new members organizing more tutoring sessions.
During the first year of the club, Grace Freedman and Chase Magnano’s younger sisters, Alexis Magnano, Ponte Vedra High School (‘22), and Hope Freedman, PV High School (‘22), became very interested in the club. The two would accompany their older siblings to the Saturday tutoring sessions and quickly became very active in JaxTHRIVE.
When the two co-founders left for college, Alexis Magnano and Hope Freedman stepped up to manage and run the organization. Today, the two are now co-founders and presidents at Ponte Vedra’s JaxTHRIVE club.
Four years ago, Yasmina Chahlavi and Audrey Cheng heard about the incredible organization from Chahlavi’s mom. The two began volunteering for JaxTHRIVE on Saturdays and now, Chahlavi and Cheng are co-founders and co-presidents of the Bolles JaxTHRIVE club.
“They are just powerful forces for positive interactions and positive involvement. So, every time we have a club meeting in my room, their enthusiasm and their warmth is just infectious, and it just makes me feel great. So, they are awesome,” Mrs. Nancy Hazzard, the club sponsor, said.
Chahlavi and Cheng have led the club through numerous successful drives and sales at Bolles. Their two biggest JaxTHRIVE drives from last year include the “Holiday in a Bucket” drive and the annual food drive at the end of the year. The “Holiday in a Bucket” drive is an adorable activity where club members are given empty buckets and cookie tins, which they fill with homemade and store bought treats, and toys. These baskets are then donated to the kids to brighten up their holidays. The Bolles branch of JaxTHRIVE plans on putting on this event again this holiday season in hopes of getting even more donations.
The wonderful tradition of the end of year food drive takes place just before the beginning of summer and encourages Bolles students to donate any and all non-perishable food items which are given to the refugee families as part of a drive held by the local JaxTHRIVE organization.
Even in the 2020-2021 school year, when sessions had to be virtual, the warm feeling all members experienced from just teaching simple math problems was exponential.
One of the many beauties of the organization being such a student-led and student-helping group is that both the members and the children find each other incredibly inspiring in countless ways.
One child in particular, Dar Salam Moussa, has hugely inspired current JaxTHRIVE presidents, Magnano and Freedman. The two presidents have been working with the 17-year-old since she arrived in Jacksonville four years ago. When Moussa began her tutoring sessions with JaxTHRIVE, she was learning the alphabet. Now, she has a job and is writing a breathtaking college application. Moussa was even honored as a key speaker in a program entitled Journey To Jacksonville: Immigrant Stories of Triumph Over Adversity.
Not only does the club help students become more grateful for what they have, members recognize the light and selflessness of the children in legion examples.
Freedman remembered examples of the admirable qualities in the children when JaxTHRIVE members brought a group of refugee kids to the dollar store, “Some of the kids will buy laundry detergent for their mom, and they won’t buy a toy for themselves. They go, and they buy things that their mom would need at home. And you’re like, ‘I would not be doing that when I was five years old. There’s no way these kids are so selfless.’ And you’re amazed and you think, ‘I need to be more like them.’”
JaxTHRIVE at Bolles is an important part of the atmosphere and each year, the club’s heartwarming accomplishments increase as more and more members join. Members are never required to attend every tutoring session or every meeting, but it only takes a small amount of time to feel the overwhelming love within the community.
“They draw energy from those kids, and I think it’s just the kind of a relationship that maybe wouldn’t have happened without this opportunity,” Mrs. Hazzard said. “It just goes to show them that somebody can interact with others in their community whether they’re in the same area or from another country.”