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With Vamos tutoring program, Visitation senior helps bolster Hispanic children’s schoolwork and self-esteem

Maia Medley, at center, and her Georgetown Visitation classmate Fiona Berek next to her at left, join students and fellow volunteers for an activity in the Vamos tutoring program on May 13 at Our Lady Queen of the Americas Church in Washington. The two members of the class of Visitation’s class of 2023 served as co-presidents of the Vamos tutoring program at their school, leading student volunteers in providing tutoring help to Hispanic children. (CS photo/Mihoko Owada)

The tutoring program for Hispanic children that Georgetown Visitation senior Maia Medley has been leading with fellow students on Saturday mornings is called Vamos, based on the Spanish word meaning, “Let’s go!”

Starting at 8:30 a.m. Saturdays during the school year – at a time when many teens and adults are resting after busy weeks at school and work – Medley and the Visitation students volunteered to give extra help to Hispanic children with math, English and other subjects. They gather for the tutoring in the basement of Our Lady, Queen of the Americas Church in Washington, D.C., where Medley and her family are parishioners.

“Service gives me an outlet to do something not just for myself, but to be grounded in something greater,” Medley said.

The member of the class of 2023 at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in Washington said she is inspired by the example of her parents, Gricell Medley, a native of Panama who is a bilingual kindergarten teacher at Rolling Terrace Elementary School in Takoma Park, Maryland; and Lee Medley, a native of Montana who works as a contractor at the Pentagon. Lee Medley, who served as a helicopter pilot in the Army, met his future wife Gricell when he was stationed in Panama.

“Career-wise, they both went into fields they loved and focused on their passions. They both came from humble homes,” said Maia Medley, who said her parents set an example of working hard and “the importance of connecting with other people and exposing yourself to different cultures.”

Maia Medley, who graduated from Our Lady of Victory School in Washington, has two older sisters, Lia and Emma, a 2020 graduate of Visitation.

Praising her mother, Medley noted, “Her life’s work has been to help underprivileged Hispanic kids have an equal playing field.”

Maia Medley, a graduating senior from Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in Washington, served this school year as co-president of the Vamos tutoring program for Hispanic children at Our Lady, Queen of the Americas Church. (CS photo/Mihoko Owada)

The Visitation senior, who is 18 and lives in Washington, said that by tutoring, she’s following her mom’s example. “I’m honoring her by doing the same thing,” she said. “I’m also honoring her because of her own struggle with a new country, culture and language.”

Medley, the co-president of the Vamos tutoring program at Visitation along with classmate Fiona Berek, said about 30 students there participate in that club, and on a typical Saturday morning, about 10-12 tutors will be working with about 10-15 Hispanic children. That one-on-one tutoring “makes them (the children) more empowered for their schoolwork,” said Medley, who said the youth attend public schools in the Washington area and have roots in Latin American and Caribbean countries including El Salvador, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

“The kids are so funny and energetic,” Medley said, noting that the tutors also play soccer and other games with them. Working with those children, she said, reminds “me of who I am at my core, and where I came from.”

Describing another special aspect of the program, the Visitation senior added, “Giving these kids the perspective that someone cares for them helps their self-esteem.”

At Georgetown Visitation, Medley has been active in student government, including this year serving as a senior class representative, which she said has been a “chill” experience, working with and advocating for her fellow students.

Medley also served as an editor of the school’s “Green Gate” yearbook with fellow Visitation seniors Lindsey Weeter and Madeline Williams. She was also president of the Spanish Honor Society there and participated in a positive body image club that was newly formed at the school. In her free time, she works at a coffee shop near her home and as a style advisor at a Georgetown clothing store.

Maia Medley, at center, laughs as her fellow member of Georgetown Visitation’s class of 2023, Fiona Berek at right, plays rock-paper-scissors on May 13 with a young student in the Vamos tutoring program at Our Lady Queen of the Americas Church in Washington. Medley and Berek served as co-presidents of the Vamos tutoring program, leading volunteers from their school who tutored Hispanic children in the basement of the church on Saturday mornings. (CS photo/Mihoko Owada)

Due to the pandemic, Medley and her classmates took classes online from the spring of their freshman year through the fall of her sophomore year, then they transitioned to a hybrid schedule for the next spring, with rotating cohorts of students attending in-person classes. By their junior year, she and her Visitation classmates returned to their campus for full-time classes. 

She said adjusting to doing schoolwork at home as her parents and older sisters were also working there in the initial months of the pandemic wasn’t stressful for her personally, but she noted that “so many of the (community) things that make Visitation special are things that don’t translate online.” During the pandemic shutdown, she missed the daily interactions with her friends and teachers at school.

But Medley added, “It (that time) also gave me a good opportunity for self-discovery outside Visitation.” 

This fall, Medley will be attending George Washington University in the nation’s capital, where she received a Stephen Joel Trachtenberg Scholarship, named for the university’s former president. She hopes to major in psychology and brain sciences there, and perhaps someday work in a field connecting developmental psychology with technological advances, to help make education more accessible for young children who might be facing challenges like learning disabilities or economic disparities.

Medley said she is feeling contrasting emotions as her June 6 graduation at Georgetown Visitation nears.

“Obviously, I’m really sad to leave Visitation. Reflecting on the years of COVID and being in-person (again at school), you always feel a loss when things are changing,” she said, adding, “I’m still really excited about next year. Change is where you grow and become better.”

On May 13, the volunteers from Georgetown Visitation had a special ceremony for the Hispanic children they had been working with in the Vamos tutoring program during this past school year. After helping the children with subjects like math and English with the goal of bolstering their self-confidence and classwork, the Visitation students took time to laugh and play games with them. Next fall, a group of volunteer tutors from the school will continue working to make a difference in the lives of those children.

In an interview earlier that week at the Catholic girls’ high school sponsored by the Sisters of the Visitation, Medley reflected on the impact that her education there has had on her life. 

“Before coming to Visitation, I thought the best thing you can be is to be smart and accomplished,” she said, adding that after being at Visitation, she learned “the best thing you can be is to be kind and a good person. It’s more important to help other people than to be successful.”

Maia Medley is a member of the class of 2023 at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy of Georgetown Visitation)