Shelby Van Hyfte Story

My friend’s older brother and his high school friends looked to us and asked, “Hey, would you like to join us this weekend? We need someone to work craft tables and games to entertain some kids.”


I honestly went wherever my mom drove me. From school, to swim practice, to Girl Scout meetings, I had my life set in a circle that I continued going around and around again. But this year was different: I was twelve years old. My parents trusted me to stay home alone assuming I would not jump on the mattresses while eating all our sugary foods. Teachers had prepared me for the upcoming elementary to middle school leap. And my Girl Scout troop had just completed our Bronze Award.


Ultimately thinking the world was at our fingertips, my friend and I agreed to help. We had an idea of what we were getting into, but nothing could prepare us for what path the weekend was about to lead us on.


The Carnival highlighted unique attributes of countries represented by Dallas’s refugee community. Aside from leading the attending families’ children in games of tag and face painting, I was fortunate to observe cultural dance presentations and stories from people attending. I had never experienced anything similar to this. I was amazed at how these people could one day be in their home country and the next day be in Dallas and expected to adjust to the American lifestyle within such a quick period of time.


Following this event, I came to involve myself further in my friend’s brother’s organization. Coming in to high school, I had one club set on my mind. I had to join Ursuline’s Refugee Awareness Club. Through involvement in this club, I got help set up apartments for incoming refugee families, volunteer at Carnivals for the refugee community, and facilitate documentary screenings, and much more. By my sophomore year, the club had introduced tutoring for students at McShan’s Saturday Schools. I loved it! The kids appreciated their education far beyond the level of appreciation I had back at their age. Seeing that pushed me to strive to be a better tutor each and every Saturday.


Two years later, I find myself the President of Ursuline’s Refugee Awareness Club. Unfortunately, McShan had to rearrange its schedules, pushing back Saturday School dates, but I still find myself able to help Monday mornings through my school’s Senior Service program. It was through this program that I came across what would become my Monday afternoons and my Sunday evenings. My set aside time to not only put forward what knowledge I have, but also incorporate my faith into a curriculum that teaches kids about the Father I hold so dear to me.


I was beyond excited to start tutoring following emails back and forth with Ms. Alysa and going through orientation. With that, I also felt privileged to get the opportunity to experience the diverse Vickery Meadows community each week. In October of 2018, I met my student, Ruth, and since then, have not looked back. Her energy just rubs off onto everyone in the room. Her intelligence amazes me and makes me think weekly on the edge of my seat for activities to challenge her and help her further her knowledge.


God could not have guided Ms. Alysa to pair me with anyone else other than Ruth. From Ruth teaching me Burmese to me helping her with English and also teaching her French, we have about five languages altogether. Not only does Ruth appreciate from where her family comes, she enjoys learning about my life and teaching me about similarities and differences between her lifestyle and mine. Most of our visits I feel as if I learn more from Ruth than she does from me. She even appears to be more up to date with trending pop culture events and information than myself or my eleven-year-old sister!

Coming in to Reading Circle not only lights up my week to come; it has led me closer to God. Each Sunday I join an amazing group of women at the office for my first official bible study group meetings. Prayer is an amazing thing. From the counseling and guidance of those at Reading Circle who set aside their time to meet each Sunday, I have gained so much wisdom. I have felt its impact as I have gone through the course of my senior year, ultimately coming to a college decision—Go Hofstra Pride! Not only do I get to set an example for my younger sisters and cousins or my Reading Circle carpool squad, I get to set an example for a number of students to strive to achieve anything they want.


Reading Circle has not only benefitted students like Ruth. It has guided me to pursue my goals and look to God as I move forward. I am forever grateful for the people and students I have met throughout the course of these months and look forward to seeing these students’ progression. The time it takes to help one student comes together into a great chain of success that is beyond imagination. Thank you!


=Shelby Van Hyfte


Alysa Marx