50 Years of Peace: A Special Tutoring Relationship

Ruhi and Katherine Selwa first met at Peace in 2008 when Ruhi was in first grade and Katherine volunteered as a tutor at Peace’s after-school programs. They met each week for four years, until Katherine headed to college in Boston. As a parting gift, Katherine gave Ruhi a journal, with a special invitation for Ruhi to keep in touch and reach out if she ever needed anything.

Twelve years later, Ruhi still has the journal Katherine gave her, and the two still keep in touch—even through Ruhi’s middle and high school years and Katherine’s four years at Harvard, four years at U-M’s Medical School, and her current Neurology residency.

Now a sophomore at Grand Valley State, Ruhi appreciates all the academic support she received at Peace, as well as the long-term friendships she made. Ruhi continues to seek important “life advice” from Katherine, who she looks to as an important role model, mentor, and friend.

Ruhi grew up in Pine Lake Village where a lot of the neighborhood kids attended Peace programs. Ruhi’s mother really appreciated that Peace offered an affordable and safe place for her kids to be after school, where they could receive tutoring and academic support. Ruhi notes, “My mom really loved everything about Peace and everything they stood for.”

All the academic support, opportunities, and advice Ruhi received at Peace paid off. When Ruhi Khanna graduated from Ann Arbor’s Community High School in 2020, she received two scholarship awards―including the school’s oldest and most prestigious award, which recognizes “the graduate who best exemplifies the School’s ideals” and for her “contribution to the betterment of the school community.”

Ruhi loves studying cultures around the world, and hopes to major in anthropology, with a minor in women, gender, and sexuality studies. She shares:

“I definitely want to head to grad school for a masters in applied anthropology, which focuses on international communities and culture. I love learning about different cultures and communities―the food, language, customs, and traditions.”

Ruhi appreciates all the long-term relationships she made at Peace. Katherine Selwa, who volunteered at Peace during her high school years at Greenhills School, feels the same. 

On her Peace experience and relationship with Ruhi, Katherine shares:  

“I was looking for a regular volunteer opportunity, one that offered a longer commitment vs .a ‘one and done’ kind of experience . . . one where I could really help someone. When I first met Ruhi she was in first grade and very shy. She was always good with math, but didn’t really like to read. I tried to be creative in how we covered different concepts to make it fun. I do remember we played a lot of silly board games on notebook paper. 

I think along the way, I must have realized that if school’s a scary place, a negative thing, it’s hard to learn. Looking back, tutoring Ruhi helped me recognize on some level how to assess if a learning environment is a safe place to be, if it’s a positive one. I now realize that understanding the social determinants of education is very similar to what we learn in medical school about the social determinants of health.”

When Katherine graduated from high school, she had to stop tutoring and gave Ruhi a journal that included her contact information, some “silly general life advice”, a note that included Ruhi’s special strengths and qualities, and perhaps most important, an invitation for Ruhi to reach out if she ever needed anything. Ruhi took Katherine up on her offer, and the two have stayed in touch ever since.

Over the last nine years, Ruhi and Katherine have met periodically to catch up―often at their favorite local Panera. Katherine credits Ruhi with ensuring they stay in touch, noting: 

“It takes a lot of courage to be the one to take the initiative. Make no mistake, being able to have a long-term relationship with Ruhi has been helpful for both of us. I’m really really proud of her.”

In addition to Katherine, Ruhi continues to maintain close relationships with Peace’s staff: 

“I’m so appreciative for all Peace has done for me. Not just as a resource, but all the close relationships I have with people who work there. . . I really know everyone there and love them. I’ve grown up with them, and they’ve always [extended] amazing kindness, resources, and opportunities . . .especially Bonnie, who’s always there and available. Peace has always been a second home for me. Knowing they will always be there for me is something I hold dearly.”