What's Happening at West

September 23, 2009 | 826 Blog Post

Tutoring really is the backbone of our programs: it provides much needed one-on-one attention from caring adults to students who, in many cases, would not be able to finish their homework on their own (or, in many other cases, would technically finish their homework, but wouldn’t necessarily understand it).

This year, we decided to do something pretty incredible with our drop-in tutoring program. We know that many Ypsilanti students would benefit greatly from our free student programming, but we also know that it is often impossible for those students to get to downtown Ann Arbor after school. So, what did we decide to do? We decided to bring our drop-in tutoring program to them. This year, Monday through Thursday, we offer free homework help at West Middle School in Ypsilanti from 2:30-5pm.

We just started this week, but we’re already, I think it is safe to say, in love. I had the good fortune to go on Monday. I worked, over the course of two-and-a-half hours, with three students, all of whom had what I would call a tenuous grasp of what was expected of them for their math homework. Let it be known: my grasp on almost all math is tenuous. However, the students were eager to learn, eager for the one-on-one attention, and eager for us to figure it out together.

Driving back to 826, all I could think was: Lives are being CHANGED, for the better, and maybe even in-the-best-possible-way, at West Middle this year. I felt like, here it is, September, and students are already falling behind in their math (and science and reading and so on) classes. It’s likely, if not certain, that were 826michigan not providing free tutoring to these students this year, by the end of the school year, many of them would consider themselves lost causes in certain subjects, and label themselves “bad at math” (or science or reading or so on).

Instead, these students will have an opportunity to have a caring adult help them understand their homework four days a week, right in their very school. Students who might have gone into the school year “bad at math” might label themselves “math whizzes” by the end of the school year. They might not be behind at all. They might be at the top of their class.

Even MORE exciting, we’re teaming up with MERC (Michigan Education Reform Club), including Professor Bob Bain and club leader Dave Melter, our new BFFs, to do it. This incredible new club is supplying us with hoards of education majors to work with the students! We could not be more thankful for or impressed with Bob and Dave and their team.

It probably goes without saying, and I know that I am biased, but sometimes I am overwhelmed with all the good work being done at 826michigan. To think that we have HUNDREDS of caring adults who want to donate their time to us to help students write stories and be creative and have fun and express themselves and understand their homework (and so on) is truly, TRULY amazing. I am biased to be sure, but I also feel so lucky to play any part (even what is most often a behind-the-scenes one) in the hundreds of hours of good work that happens in our community through 826. And our staff of two can, quite literally, only take credit for the smallest part of it, because it is our wonderful army of volunteers that really makes it happen.

And, because I’ve gushed enough (probably) for today, I’ll end this by taking a quick moment to thank Phoebe Goldberg, our magnificent tutoring intern who is heading up West Middle this year (and someone I really cannot say enough good things about), and Deianira Smith, the counselor at West with whom we’ve been working, whose dedication and commitment to her students has really rubbed off on the rest of us. This project absolutely could not happen without the two of you. Thank you!

If my warm fuzziness today made you feel warm and fuzzy, you can download a volunteer application here.

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