Business School Service Leader Soi Lee Grows from Tutoring Refugee Children
The Chaifetz School Service Leadership Program provides a variety of opportunities for students to volunteer throughout the St. Louis area and effectively grow into becoming leaders. Soi Lee, a member of the Service Leadership Program, volunteers weekly at Firm Foundations South, a faith-based one-on-one tutoring center for immigrant and refugee children.
"Service is a part of my life," Lee said. "I love working with children, and Firm Foundations South values intentional relationships between tutors and students which allows me to grow as a caring and compassionate person."
Once a week, Lee tutors a 5-year-old boy from Nepal in reading and writing. Lee helps him with homework, improves reading skills and plans activities with him.
“Throughout my service experience, I have had some struggles in keeping his attention on homework and readings,” Lee said. “At first, I was impatient."
Kristen Flores, the Tutoring Coordinator at Firm Foundations South, gave Lee a piece of advice that changed her outlook on tutoring.
"These kids are absorbing every word and action of adults. We tend to expect these kids to conform to our expectations, but it is an unrealistic belief," Flores said. "Instead of trying to change an external factor, focus internally to think of a compassionate response to these impatient thoughts."
Absorbing Flores's advice, Lee sought different ways to approach tutoring and she even saw progress in her student's determination to excel academically.
"Her words really stood out to me in changing my perspective in which I started to encourage and compliment him, learning that our words are powerful and can influence others,” Lee said. “I could feel him getting more comfortable with me in opening up about his home and school life. Last tutoring session, he said, ‘Ms. Soi, you are so sweet and nice, and you always make me laugh.’ He trusted me and thought of me as a friend and mentor- not just his tutor.”
Noticing similarities between the student's childhood and her own, Lee empathized with him to take an alternative approach to her typical mentoring style.
"English also wasn't my first language, allowing me to see his perspective in which I understand how hard it is, especially when English isn't spoken at home," Lee said. "I didn't realize it before, but I've learned to embrace it and became more patient."
Lee said her involvement in service leadership exposed her to people with diverse backgrounds, further deepening her understanding of what it takes to become a leader.
"It's not just just helping them but growing while serving them," Lee said. "I have gained new qualities such as patience, empathy and self-awareness by working with volunteers, Mrs. Kristen and my mentee.”
By tutoring refugee children at Firm Foundations South, Lee continues to maintain an accepting and open-mind when serving individual communities.
“Service is not fixing other people’s problems, but opening our hearts to embrace and learn from other people’s unique perspectives regardless of their age, religion, sexual orientation, nationality and race," Lee said.
The Chaifetz School of Business Service Leadership Program is a co-curricular program that provides business students the opportunity to develop their skills while becoming men and women for others through coursework, leadership workshops and 200 hours of community service. The Service Leadership Program hosts opportunities throughout the year to serve the St. Louis community.