By Paige Myers-Ackerman
This article was originally published in Issue 5, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (November 5, 2015). Click here to view the entire issue.
I remember looking up to college students when I was a child. Whether they were family friends or teachers’ aides, these young adults served as role models whom I hoped to be like some day. I never thought this scenario would reverse, but it has.
This year, I am one of over 40 DeSales students participating in the Tutoring and Mentoring program through the Center for Service and Social Justice. The after school program is a work-study job in which DeSales students attend five elementary, middle and high schools located in low-income areas of the Lehigh Valley. Many students in these schools do not receive encouragement to excel or individual attention in the classroom. This increases the importance of the program, which aims to provide role models for academic success and inspiration for students to reach their full potential.
At the elementary school where I tutor and mentor, four DeSales students and I work with a small group of fifth graders. Our first task is assuring that students successfully and correctly complete their homework. This consists of sitting beside the students and helping to resolve any difficulties they may experience. I was initially nervous to tutor some subjects, but I have learned that students struggling with homework often simply need encouragement to continue trying so that they do not give up.
After guiding students through the homework process, the mentoring portion of the program continues as students participate in a variety of enrichment activities, such as reading, writing, arts and crafts or playing games. During these activities, opportunities to offer guidance arise through conversations with the students. Difficult subjects sometimes emerge, and it is the responsibility of the tutors and mentors to handle these situations appropriately. More often, though, the kids make nonchalant comments that provide an opportunity to offer guidance.
Last week, I experienced such an occasion while a student read a picture book to me. When the student misread a word, he said he did so because he was not wearing his glasses. I asked the student where his glasses were and why he was not wearing them. The student responded that he does not bring his glasses to school because he does not like wearing them. At this point, I explained the importance of wearing glasses for optical health and school success. From the student’s surprised response, it was clear that the importance of wearing glasses had never been explained to him. This conversation made an impact on the student as he experienced guidance he would not have otherwise received.
The Tutoring and Mentoring program places a large responsibility on participants, but the program is rewarding too. Helping students reach an understanding of a concept or overcome confusion is fulfilling for both the children and the tutors. Meaningful conversations with students allow mentors to feel that they are impacting the children’s lives.
The program also offers opportunities to have fun with the kids. On Oct. 29, 80 students visited DeSales to trick-or-treat in the residence halls. The tutors and mentors decorated several areas of campus in preparation for the event and led students to the dorms to receive their treats. The students will also visit DeSales in December for a Christmas party.
For more information about how to get involved in the Tutoring and Mentoring program, contact Michelle Christel at mc7743@ desales.edu.