WILKES-BARRE — A tutoring program that has helped students from low-income families improve their grades and get their families more involved in their education was in danger of ending when funding expired.
But King’s College stepped up to the plate, the Luzerne/Schuylkill Workforce Investment Board recently awarded the program a $48,000 youth services contract, and now students like 10-year-old Aja’Nique Crutchfield can continue getting the help they need after school in subjects that are presenting some challenges.
“I’ve gotten a lot better in math. She’s helped me a lot with that,” Aja’Nique, a fifth-grader at State Street Elementary School in Wilkes-Barre, said, referring to her mentor and learning coach, Kelsie Dougherty, a King’s student volunteer.
About 35 fifth- through eighth-grade students from State Street, Kistler Elementary and Meyers Junior/Senior High School participate in the program each semester, spending one afternoon each week on the King’s campus working one-on-one with student tutors.
“They’re all reading below grade level and many of them are struggling in multiple subjects,” said Bill Bolan, director of the Shoval Center for Community Engagement and Learning at King’s.
Some sessions include a financial literacy component, training in research, writing and public speaking in preparation for a presentation at the end of the semester, and a focus on literacy through the Read-A-Rama Program. Each session begins with a snack and ends with a meal in the College Campus Center.
Adamarys Rocha, a sixth-grade student at Kistler, said the snack “helps me concentrate better” on the schoolwork, and her mentor, King’s student Talia Toole, “helps me with my homework and shows me the stuff I need to do.”
“It’s a good idea for kids to come here so people can help them with the stuff they’re having trouble with,” Adamarys said.
Adults who work locally also come in and speak with students about their jobs and careers in their fields that are available in the local community.
The program was originally run by the Volunteers of America starting in spring 2012.
“They thought it best if a year-round educational institution took it over,” Nolan said. “It just made sense because we have the academic resources to keep it going.”
The funding from the Luzerne/Schuylkill WIB also enabled the hire of three Learning Works coaches who work side-by-side with parents during weekly home visits to provide additional academic support to their children. The coaches also work with participants’ siblings and refer families to any needed social services or economic support.
Joel Martinez, a sophomore accounting major at King’s, said he volunteered to be a mentor/learning coach because he enjoys helping children and likes “to see kids grow and learn from you.”
Martinez said a student he worked with last semester “didn’t want to do his homework or even be here when the semester started. But by the end of the semester, he was eager to do the homework. He went up a letter grade in one subject and a half letter grade in another.”
Martinez said it’s a great program for children whose families can’t afford a tutor or might not have have adequate encouragement from parents.
“It lets them know someone is there to help them achieve academically,” he said.