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Tutors foster success in school, life

April 05, 1999

TutorsBy BRUCE HAMILTON / Staff Writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




Every Wednesday, when other children are riding buses home from school, a small group of downtown students walks to church.

They go to Asbury United Methodist Church, where volunteers tutor them for free. The kids study, but they also learn life lessons such as respect and tolerance.

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"They are very committed to coming," said Siri Young, who runs the weekly session. "They want to learn."

Young is vice president of the Community Enrichment Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a "safe, productive community in the Jonathan Street area," according to its brochure.

For four years, the coalition has offered the after-school program in that neighborhood. After an hour of study, the students eat a meal and participate in "peace talks," a conflict resolution program.

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"We just concentrate on how to get along and not fight or bully," said Young. The peace talks usually focus on overcoming prejudice, religious differences and other social problems.

Commandments and crosses lines the walls behind computers in the makeshift classroom. The coalition does not emphasize religion, but the church provides a warm, safe place for the program.

Last week, Veronica Wheeler, 9, looked up from a page full of numbers. "Guess how long will this problem will take?" she asked.

Anne Carden, her tutor, smiled and said, "20 seconds."

Veronica divided 5 into 785, her brow bowed with intense thought. She tapped her pencil, scribbled and smiled. She had the answer in 17 seconds.

"The only thing in school I like is math," she said.

Carden, who is retired, said she has been a tutor for two years. "I can't imagine anything more worthwhile than to encourage these young people to want to do their schoolwork," she said.

Beside her, Robin Morris is helping Veronica's twin sister, Valentina. Morris, who has tutored Fountaindale Elementary School students for almost three years, said the program teaches children respect.

Mary Cosgrove began tutoring at the church six months ago. "It's a good thing that happens here," she said. Cosgrove said she sees results in the kids' language and the way they deal with conflicts.

Other volunteers believe in the power of positive reinforcement. "If they know somebody is interested and is willing to help, that makes a difference," said Ann Doleman, a teacher for 25 years who is now a licensed practical nurse.

The program is open to children between kindergarten and ninth grade, according to Young. The average weekly number of students is about 22, Young said, and more volunteers are always welcome. Call (301) 665-1747 for information.

The tutors usually focus on work provided by the students' teachers. Justin Black, 11, said he's noticed a difference since he started coming in December. "I've been getting better grades and everything," he said. "I've been doing better in school."

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