Rayvonte Toliver’s passion for working with children caught the attention of LifeSTEPS Director of Social Services Ronita at the affordable housing community where he lives with his parents and siblings. Admiring his eagerness to help others, Ronita suggested that he interview for an open position supporting LifeSTEPS’ After School Program (ASP) at a nearby apartment community in Sacramento. The rest is history; he’s been connecting with and supporting low-income and at-risk youth ever since as an ASP program coordinator at The Madison.
“Rayvonte has been a strong and consistent presence in the lives of his students for years. Through the personal connections he makes with each student, he is able to gear his educational activities to their likes and dislikes, which make The Madison’s ASP program so successful and popular,” said Rachel Roguski, LifeSTEPS Northern Regional Director of Social Services.
Rayvonte’s ASP serves 15-20 students on a daily basis. His determination and adaptable approach to both teaching and learning has attracted many new participants to the program. Rayvonte provides a safe, caring, and academically challenging environment in which children may develop their self-esteem, creativity, learning and social skills after school.
“I think the ASP is well loved and attended due to me being an adult kid, so to say. The students look up to me for guidance and are not afraid to ask me for help because they feel I’m one of them,” said Rayvonte.
His ability to build relationships at The Madison with ASP participants, their families, property management and LifeSTEPS staff helped Rayvonte create and launch the newly formed “Teen Club” on the property, where he provides support for his participant’s older siblings and youth at the apartment community.
“I try to provide places where all students know it is safe for them to be themselves, no matter what that is, and be able to do so without interfering with another child trying to do the same. Rather let’s see how we all can utilize our uniqueness to benefit our friendships and relationships,” said Rayvonte.
When COVID-19 forced LifeSTEPS to shift modes and conduct its ASP remotely, Rayvonte adapted right away. He went door to door throughout his community, dropping off educational activities and making sure his students still had access to the best learning and support programs. And earlier this year, after a powerful storm caused a tree to fall on The Madison’s community room where Rayvonte conducts ASP, Rayvonte gathered his students and held his program outside.
“Rayvonte always puts the kids and their education first; he makes the best of any situation. He has compassion for his students, and regardless of any circumstance, he makes sure his students are able to get the after school support they need,” said Esmeralda Mendoza, LifeSTEPS Regional Supervisor of Social Services.
As serious as he is about learning and connecting, Rayvonte wants learning to be fun! He created Fun Friday to reward his students for their hard work during the week. Whether it’s a board game competition, relay races or a flag football game, to name a few, the students love being competitive and look forward to those end-of-the-week activities together.
“What I like most about working with the kids is the smiles and stories. Listening and interacting with them is so interesting because you never know what you get. I think I like the fact that every day is different,” said Rayvonte. “My coworkers motivate me; their willingness to help these children thrive makes going in to work every day effortless.”