Dec. 7, 2018 -- We all know that it takes a village to raise a child. But Dr. Brian Williams, Coordinator of Alternative Education for the district’s Options Center, would argue that the same applies for raising a teenager.
The teenagers in his care, 145 high school students who are working to recover their credits and get back on the track to graduation, benefit from a village of regular volunteers from John Carroll University. Nearly 40 college students visit Options, which is located in the Delisle Building, for 90 minutes each week to tutor students. The program is organized by the Center for Service and Social Action at John Carroll University and coordinated by J.P. Graulty, JCU’s Assistant Director for Community Partnerships.
While the university as a whole does not require community service work, a majority of students do it, according to Graulty, often as part of an individual course requirement.
“The placement at Options is a good fit for a wide variety of courses,” Graulty said. “It’s an obvious fit for students in education courses, but it’s also a good fit for students in an introduction to theology course, which focuses on social injustice.”
For education students, the experience can prove invaluable. Because they often tutor during their first year, students are able to determine if teaching is actually the right choice for them. Graulty reports that some students have moved to a different major after tutoring, while others switched to become education majors.
For Pierce Srail, a senior majoring in Supply Chain Management, tutoring has been both rewarding and eye-opening. Drawn to the program after taking a course on the social change model of entrepreneurship, Srail feels like “I’m getting back as much as I’m giving to students. It’s interesting to hear their perspectives on life and see where they’ve come from and where they’re going. They all hope to go to college.”
The weekly tutoring sessions should help them get there. “This has helped me improve so much, especially in reading comprehension and vocabulary,” said senior Siera Wesley, who regrets that she didn't take advantage of working with a tutor last year. “Now I know how much they help, and how wonderful they are.” The experience has taught her to take advantage of help whenever it’s offered, a value she will carry with her into college and career.
Having just said goodbye to the first semester cohort with gifts of Tiger Nation gear bags, Dr. Williams and the Options students are already looking forward to the next group, slated to start their 10-week stint in February. Dr. Williams believes the program leads to real academic gains, especially because all Options students follow an individualized curriculum. “This is a very rich partnership.”