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Not Your Typical Spring Break: East Bay Students on a Mission

March 09, 2018 - Points of Pride

Ten East Bay High School students won’t be spending Spring Break at the theme parks or the beach, they’ll be teaching other students math – and chose to do so.

“I’ve been waiting for this trip, and I’m ready,” said East Bay Senior Deariah Ho-Koon.

The group, led by math teachers Taina Cote and Patrice Brown, will be spending five days in New York City on a Math Mission tutoring middle school students in impoverished areas.

“I’ve never been to New York before,” said East Bay Senior Terriona Johnson.

“It’s just going to be an amazing experience. I’ve never seen snow. I’ve never been up north,” said East Bay Sophomore Leoncio Martinez. 

“The kids are going to be going to Harlem, right near Harlem, New York. We’re going to be tutoring at Beyond Readiness. It’s another place where they have low-income, at-risk students that they tutor,” said trip organizer and East Bay math teacher Taina Cote.

“I really want to teach them that math is not a bad thing. It’s actually a good thing and in the real world, you’re going to need math,” said Johnson.

Bookbag Tours is the one that actually got us that connection, at the Beekman House too, which is in the Bronx,” said Cote.

“This is going to be fun for me. I’m not saying just because I’m going to New York, I’m saying because I’m being able to be somebody to these kids,” said East Bay Junior Carlos Trejo.

The East Bay students were chosen from dozens of classmates based not on grades, but character. Many know first-hand about the hard times that the New York students face.

“These are students who have had some type of trouble or have had some type of difficulty growing up. They’re not privileged in any way. So, they’re going to really connect with the other ones, because we’ve been told the other students don’t have much,” said Cote.

“I lived in poverty. I had struggles I had to overcome, honestly, by myself. So, to actually be somebody to go there and help them through, talk to them, just be a friend to them,” said Trejo.

Cote connected with the New York teachers online and is active with the group Teach with Love that helps to fund scholarships and missions like this one. The trip is a dream she shared with colleague Patrice Brown four years ago.  They’re excited to finally make it a reality.

“Every child has the ability to learn math and to share it with someone else. Even if they’re not the straight-A student. They can still share what they know. And to see these kids now say I will give up my time that I have for spring break to go help somebody else, to me it’s just a testimony to who these students really are,” said East Bay Teacher of the Year Patrice Brown.

“I’d rather go there and help somebody, and make a change,” said Ho-Koon.

The Math Mission is a trip that most of the East Bay families couldn’t afford on their own. One mother shared with the teachers that she’s struggling with bills and recently received a disconnect-notice.

“They had priced it out, and each trip was going to be about $1,250 per student. We got $800 in corporate sponsorships (per student) and that left about $450 for the kids. Some kids did not pay anything, they were able to get full sponsorships,” said Cote.

Some of the sponsors include: Marriott, Bookbag Tours, Delta, an Oscar De La Renta Fashion Designer, Vicky Flores Photography, Super Shuttle, Judge Darryl Manning, Top Teens of America, Snobachi, Rivers of Life Church, Alvarez Plumbing and Air Conditioning and more than 30 personal donations.

“I am just so blessed beyond words to just have my son and all of these kids go, and all of the sponsors that made it happen and affordable for us parents that can’t afford to ever do anything like this. I’m just so grateful,” said Mother Rachel Harris. Her son, Taylor, is going on the trip.

To help support the Math Mission:

Students say this is about more than a math lesson, it’s an invaluable life lesson that’s inspiring them to help others.

“I feel like, if I can teach them, maybe when I come back, I can teach others too at East Bay,” said Johnson.

“Coming together as a group, as a team to help support and tutor, it feels great,” said Ho-Koon.

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