‘Every kid deserves a chance to succeed, no matter what their background is’

Ruth Loeffler, 36, works at Youth Empowerment Services (YES) in New Brunswick, a non-profit organization that tutors underprivileged kids, as well as teenagers. YES also hosts a slew of other extracurricular activities to steer children in the positive direction, such as holding flag football tournaments and having annual summer camp events.

This profile is part of the series, “The New Jersey 37,” which focuses on residents making up the 37 percent of households in state that cannot afford basic needs such as health care, housing, food, child care, and transportation.

Scott Jagarnauth: What would you say is your job description here?

Ruth Loeffler: I manage the tutoring programs for after school. Specifically, first grade through eighth grade. As part of that, I have to coordinate a lot of volunteers as well. I also tutor the ones that are younger than 7 years old when there is a lot going on, which is usually the case.

SJ: What’s the demographic of kids that come here? Is it mostly African Americans, Hispanics, etc.?

RL: It’s mostly African Americans and Hispanics. We do have some white people who come here but for the most part, it’s mainly minorities. This is a non-profit, so it’s mainly kids whose parents can’t afford the expensive after-school tutoring and programs. It’s also about equal rights too, you know? Every kid deserves a chance to succeed, no matter what their background is.

SJ: Why do you think parents put their kids in these programs?

RL: There’s a slew of reasons. One of the main ones is that they’re pretty invested in their academic success. They could be failing at school, so they want them to pass or they can be getting A’s, and want them to keep that up. Sometimes the parents have lost the ability to help their children help them with their homework. That’s usually because there is a language barrier. So they send them here so we can help them.

SJ: Do you think this program has been successful with providing education with underprivileged children?

RL: We have been very successful. The younger they enroll, the higher the success rate. They usually come by third grade but we’d like to see them come in younger. We’ve seen people come in who are teenagers who are from broken homes. Their attitude reflected that but they went on to do great things with their lives. But when they are younger, there’s a better chance to positively influence them.

SJ: What made you want to do this?

RL: That’s a good question! I initially just started as a regular volunteer. I was on an immigrant spousal visa so the only thing I could do was volunteer, technically. I then got used to this place and got to know Barry [the head director of YES organization] and fell in love with it. Soon after, I got my citizenship and then eventually the director of the tutoring program left and she asked me if I wanted her position, which I said yes.

SJ: Do you ever see yourself in Barry’s position?

RL: I definitely enjoy the work. It makes me feel good working with people and that I’m impacting their lives. I like the program management aspect of it as well. In regards to Barry’s position, I don’t think I’m cut out for it. I don’t think I could do all the fundraising.