PAVE began as a simple idea for a High School English class in Mendham, New Jersey. Over the course of a year, three students transformed that idea into a fully independent, non-profit organization. PAVE, short for Providing Academic Vision and Enrichment, began as a tutoring program to help children in underprivileged areas improve in various academic areas. However, after the first few sessions, the program’s aim quickly evolved into more than just changing students’ report cards. PAVE began to change students’ futures.
Billy Foshay, a sophomore at Boston College, created PAVE for a group project his junior year in high school. Each English class at Mendham High School was assigned to create a program that would benefit the community in some way. With the help of his partners, Natalie Buckner (also a sophomore at Boston College) and Samantha Noll, Foshay came up with the idea to bus elementary school students from Newark, New Jersey, into their town of Mendham to be tutored by high school students. Their idea was selected as one of the best in the school, and as a result the school decided to make the idea a reality. Foshay, Buckner, and Noll dedicated the next few months to working out the details in hopes of bringing PAVE to life. The process was no easy feat. Papers had to be filed, word had to spread, and tutors had to be chosen all before Foshay could even dream of bringing the first students to his school. Even after all the work was seemingly completed, Foshay encountered his largest obstacle of all: finding a school to work with. He discovered that few schools were willing to ship their students off to participate in a program that had no previous track record. It was not until almost a year later that he finally received the response he had been waiting for.
La Casa de Don Pedro, an afterschool program in Newark, contacted Foshay in September of his senior year. The program was eager for their kids to get started, and soon enough PAVE had its first session. That year, twenty kids between second and fifth grade participated in a ten-session program, which Foshay called “the feeling out period.” Foshay and his partners, along with forty other high school volunteers, spent two Saturdays a month interacting with and tutoring the kids. As relationships with the kids formed, Foshay realized his original “tutor” system might not be what the kids needed most. He wanted to do something more, something that could never be depicted on a report card grade or a teacher remark. He knew that if the kids wanted to learn, they probably could with today’s technology. What he wanted to rouse was what most of them were lacking: a passion to learn.
PAVE began to evolve from an academic, intellectually based program to a goal-oriented mentoring program. Through fundraising and outside donations, Foshay purchased “Action Books” for each child and mentor. The books were more than ordinary notebooks; they were specifically designed to show the importance of setting goals and ways to achieve these goals. By implementing the Action Books, Foshay started to see just how big of an impact PAVE could have on the lives of the kids. More importantly, he realized that all the kids really needed was someone to encourage them and show them that their dreams do matter.
Two three-hour sessions a month is all it takes for Foshay and the other members of PAVE to make a difference in the lives of others. For Foshay, it is less about helping with schoolwork than about giving the kids the tools to create a better future. PAVE gives the kids a chance to feel important, a chance they may not receive elsewhere. Foshay hopes to inspire not only the kids, but other high school students as well. He wants to show that it does not take a lifetime of experience and salary to accomplish change. Rather, it takes one idea and a passion to “go after it,” as Foshay said.
Currently, PAVE works with over three quarters of the same kids that originally entered the program. Foshay and his partners continue to strive to find unique ways to spark interest in learning and education. Each session works to build the confidence of the kids and fuel a passion for knowledge and understanding. The organization plans to one day expand to other schools in New Jersey and earn a 5013c status. No matter where PAVE goes in the future, Foshay knows the end goal will always be to improve the lives of the kids.
For more information about PAVE, visit their Facebook page or their website.
All images courtesy of facebook.com/MendhamPAVE