Djeneba, a brilliant college student with her eyes set on law school, could have slipped right through the cracks. In elementary school, she had so much potential, but was struggling. As immigrants, her mother spoke mostly French and very little English. She helped Djeneba as much as she could, but eventually, more help was needed.

Djeneba recalls, “When I first started By The Hand in fourth grade, I loved it. They helped me make new friends from other schools. It was a safe community. It was fun. They made me interested in something.”

It was the perfect environment for her to thrive. She remembers first being motivated to work hard because of the ABC parties. But then, “I noticed I liked how it felt to get good grades. And now, I knew I could. It felt really good to not be getting yelled at for every report card, but to be celebrated.” It was a feeling she wanted more of. She explains, “When It came to school work, yes, they helped me improve my grades, but more than that, they helped me want it for myself.”

Beyond her improving academics, Djeneba loved By The Hand because she could tell they cared about her life. She laughs, “Ms. Jackie saw me through all my attitudes and sassiness. She helped keep me on that good path. She took me to church. She invited me to her house. She always had me around.” She continues, “I kind of felt like, wherever she was, I wanted to be, too.” It was a connection that helped her feel safe and important. It wasn’t until years later that Djeneba realized the impact had been mutual, “Actually, I am the reason Ms. Jackie joined By The Hand. She had signed up to pray and eventually wanted to meet the student she’d been praying for. So, she came and met me and signed up to volunteer!”