By Emma Jabbour
As many high schoolers strive to get their community service hours along with playing an active role in where they live, some students have taken that to the next level and gone above and beyond. Alexis Magnano, a junior at Ponte Vedra High School, is the co-president of JaxTHRIVE- which tutors and mentors refugees. They are currently working with Afghan Special Immigrant Visa students. Magnano’s older brother Chase Magnano and Grace Freedman, PVHS alumni, started the program to help the refugee population in Jacksonville and they have been working for the past five years. Magnano helped found the program when she was in 7th grade and started the club at PVHS last school year.
Magnano says that the most rewarding part about being involved with JaxTHRIVE is watching the students grow from shy and quiet to outgoing and excited to see everyone. She has also loved getting to watch them grow up over the years. There is a JaxTHRIVE club at not only PVHS, but Bolles High School and Stanton College Preparatory School. The JaxTHRIVE clubs even go farther than Florida into Maine, New Hampshire, The United Arab Emirates, and Toronto, Canada. In addition, they have partnerships in Miami, Texas, and India to tutor students. The program has had over 300 volunteers making over 10,000 service hours, and the club alone at PVHS has over 70 members.
Magnano says that the biggest impact she thinks JaxTHRIVE has had would be the tutoring they have done during the pandemic. After discovering that most families only had one device for several children, therefore, many of the students were not attending class, they had to provide multiple families with devices for online one-on-one tutoring and school. They quickly worked to make sure that the students were getting help on their online assignments and have been conducting online one-on-one tutoring for two years now. Magnano stated, “Working around Covid-19 was definitely the biggest obstacle we faced because we are a traditionally an in-person program, so adjusting to online tutoring was difficult.” She recently resumed in-person tutoring on Jan. 29 and was excited to see the students that she has been working with for so long. Magnano tutors a six year old boy and they either do his homework together or work on what he is learning in class.
Alexis said, “These clubs are important because Jacksonville is a huge hub for refugee families and many schools will pass the children without them actually learning anything or receiving the one-on-one attention they need.” She has seen many students get passed through the public school system while still lacking the foundation they need to succeed in their later years of schooling. For example, they will work with juniors in high school who still cannot read English. Providing these students with the fundamental tools they need for their futures is where Magnano thinks that JaxTHRIVE is having the most meaningful influence on Jacksonville.