Residents’ stories are at the heart of CommonBond’s work. Sometimes these stories involve huge milestones, like making a move toward homeownership. Others—like this one—are remarkable stories born from a seemingly ordinary experience while living in a CommonBond community.
CommonBond is dedicated to providing residents with the resources they need to thrive. For the youth in our communities, that often comes in the form of our Study Buddies program. Study Buddies pairs students with volunteer adult mentors, and is designed to strengthen academic skills while also building a positive, trusting relationship with a caring adult.
For one Study Buddies duo, their coincidental pairing ended up connecting them in a totally unexpected way.
Meet Bahjo—a 10 year old student living at Skyline Tower. Bahjo is a funny, opinionated, high-spirited kid who attends school at Capitol Hill in St. Paul. She is a gifted reader, and when she learned her school was hosting a Battle of the Books contest, she decided to enter a recent favorite of hers titled Bo at Ballard Creek, by Kirkpatrick Hill. “It’s about a little girl in Alaska, and she was adopted by her papas and they raised her,” Bahjo explained. The book centers around a young girl named Bo in the 1920s, who, growing up in the care of two tough but warmhearted goldminers, overcomes challenges and learns about herself in a close-knit, diverse community. “It was interesting mostly because of learning a lot about Alaska, and about Bo’s dads because they had to work really hard,” Bahjo said.
This year, Bahjo has been working with her Study Buddy, Hayley, on reading and homework assignments. Hayley, a student at Macalester College in St. Paul, began volunteering with CommonBond just this year. When Bahjo arrived at their Study Buddies session, she told her about the Battle of the Books. When she said that she wanted to enter Bo at Ballard Creek into the competition, Hayley was floored. Why?
Kirkpatrick Hill—the author of the book—is Hayley’s grandmother.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Hayley said. “It’s definitely not a book that I thought would be read outside of where I’m from—and by my Study Buddy, of all people!” Hayley grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska, and her grandmother still lives there today. “Of course, my grandma wanted to know all about Bahjo once I told her!” Hayley said. Bahjo, who simply found the book in her school library, couldn’t believe the coincidence either: “I was like ‘what?!’ when I learned it was by Hayley’s grandma!” she recalled.
These are the types of moments that exemplify the connections made through Study Buddies. Of course, not everyone’s grandmother is an award-winning author; but these seemingly small, serendipitous moments of realization, learning, and connection will become the foundation for positive relationships and habits throughout life. For Hayley and Bahjo, it was extra special to see that those connections can arrive in some very unexpected ways.