First-year law students can barely make time to sleep, much less venture outside the library.
“Honestly, on average, I'm probably getting four to five hours of sleep a night,” said University of Tennessee College of Law first year student, Mila Yarbrough.
When she started classes, she decided early there was one appointment each week she did not want to cancel: tutoring at Emerald Youth's after school program, Just Lead.
“Actually my mom... said, 'You're so busy. Why don't you give up that time that you volunteer at Emerald Youth?" And I refused to do that because it's just an hour. And I figure I have at least one hour a week that I can sacrifice and come here,” Yarbrough said.
For more than two years, Mila has worked one-on-one with Jeremih Lee in reading. She started tutoring him when he was in first grade.
“When I got him he couldn't read at all, and it was really heartbreaking. I was like, ‘No. It is my goal: you will learn how to read.’ And when he read his first book, I could have cried. It touched my heart,” she said.
These days she brings in work above his grade level to challenge him. The program director said his grades have improved.
Last year, the program director asked if Mila could take on another student: Amyrical Bingham.
“We're learning about math and math is fun,” Bingham, a third grader at Beaumont Elementary, said.
Elementary and Middle school director, Jovette Johnson, saw Mila had the ability to connect with the students about more than just academics.
“I know that Jeremih and Amyrical love her being here because Fridays [when she tutors them] are our days to have fun. And when she comes they don't complain at all,” said Johnson.
Last year, Jeremih surprised Mila by coming to her final performance as a dancer. She danced in the UT dance company as an undergraduate student.
“It really melted my heart to know that he support me just as much as I support him. And he's so young!” Mila said, “He had flowers for me and everything. I just lost it.”
It's the relationships that keep Mila coming back each week, even when she's buried in school work.
“I know they are depending on me. And often times in their lives they don't always have people they can depend on. Knowing that someone is here consistently every week makes me feel good and know I'm someone they can count on and trust,” she said.
Emerald Youth is always looking for volunteers to tutor, coach youth sports, or be a mentor. Visit their website for more information.