Daxton Gutekunst ’23 has plans for Saturday. A lot of Saturdays, as a matter of fact.
A peer tutoring program for refugee students in San Diego, Kid By Kid aims to not only offer academic support, but also a bridge to understanding and connecting with the local culture and region.
Middle and high school age mentors work with elementary and middle school age students as they begin their educational journey in their new community. In the organization’s background brief, Dax notes, “Kid By Kid is focusing on grade school aged refugee children. These younger children are most at need as they enter into a larger community beyond their immediate family and are confronted with academics in a new a language, culture and environment.”
Saturday, Oct. 5 marked the debut program session. Dax explains, “Partnering with the IRC (International Rescue Committee) student mentors from different schools, including Bishop’s, we tutor Haitian refugee students.” Joining him as inaugural Bishop’s student tutors were Eliana Petreikis ’20, Audrey An ’23 and Aden Dorros ’23. Dax says, “Kid By Kid took the first step in what looks to be a promising journey. Already additional refugee communities beyond the Haitian community have expressed interest in the program and plans are in the works to expand the Saturday program, with the possibility of adding a complementary weekday session.” He admits he’s “thinking BIG” and hopes to “scale-up this ‘kids-helping-kids’ tutoring opportunity.”
In addition to developing the background brief this past summer, there’s also a mission statement, a website
, a 19-page training manual for the mentors and a logo. Dax says, “I ran a contest and had over 1,200 entries; I decided on this one.”
What was the seed from which all this grew? Although he began service projects as a Cub Scout and has consistently participated in a variety of worthy projects ever since, he recalls, “It was at Bishop’s, perhaps because I was older, that I truly understood the difference and impact I, as an individual, could have on an outcome. Bishop’s through its Episcopal outreach and mission has, among many other things, two special programs: Service Learning and Global Education.”
He continues, “I’d received a flyer in my school inbox…asking for volunteers to tutor refugee children. As I recall it was a joint effort between Bishop’s Service Learning and Global Education. As a then 12-year-old, a series of thoughts went through my head, ‘Me? I’m just a kid’ and ‘How can I possibly help?’ then finally, ‘Hmm, I can try this, why not?’ So, I signed up. I’d leave school every Tuesday at 3:00 to travel 30 minutes to reach my post, a make-shift classroom at the back of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in City Heights, San Diego. Upon walking through that door, a whole different and new world opened to me. I was there to help tutor elementary and middle school children who were refugees from Myanmar – and since that first day, two years ago, I’ve been hooked!”
Dax concludes, “Working with these kids is a very eye-opening and rewarding experience and as a kid myself, I know what a difference a kind word or gesture or helping hand can make coming from another kid (versus an adult or teacher). And for me, I feel I’m making a real difference in a life - it’s an immensely rewarding feeling.”
Update Aug. 2020
Daxton announced that KBK shifted to a virtual platform, and also that KBK is partnering with “three School Districts within San Diego County (San Diego Unified, Lakeside Union and Santee School District); within these three districts, we’ve had 24 separate schools sign up with us. These schools are in areas that have large portions of their community populations comprised of refugee, immigrant and English-as-second-language families. Getting our flyer approved by these school districts and having them agree to circulate our flyers among their school families (directly from the school into the parents’ inbox) was a big effort and feat!” He adds, “While an online platform can’t take the place of all the fun (and pizza) we had when meeting person, we can consider we’re still able to support and help kids, especially in the time of COVID. And as conditions and concerns diminish, we can hopefully consider in-person get-togethers once again!”
Update Nov. 2020
Students from all grade levels participated in a fall school supply donation drive that Daxton Gutekunst ’23 and members of that virtual tutoring club assembled in time for a Halloween treat. The students were thrilled to finally meet their online friends in person (but at a proper social distance)! Watch their video here.
Update Dec. 1, 2020
This holiday season, Feed the Children is looking to promote kids who are giving back on the first day of their 12 Ways of Giving campaign, which starts December 1 on Giving Tuesday. They told Daxton, "We’re very excited by the charitable work you’ve been doing to give back to your local community, and we’ve selected you to be part of “Day 1” of 12 Ways of Giving." They featured this video of Daxton, describing the work that Kid By Kid is doing.