Thursday, May 2, 2013

Tutoring program partners South Rome’s Greater Christ Temple, Berry College Honors students

Program wrapping up pilot year offering tutoring services to the youth of
South Rome

Photos: Andre Watts, elder at Greater Christ Temple. Will Graham, left, and Aaron Watts work each week on math and science. Brian Carroll, director of the Berry Honors Program

Media release: More than 30 Berry College students have partnered with Greater Christ Temple Church in Rome to offer South Rome youth tutoring help this past academic year. The program's pilot year wraps up Monday, April 29.

For the past year, Berry students, most of them members of the college's Honors Program, have volunteered to tutor students ages 7 to 18 at the church each Monday night. The local students, most of whom attend Greater Christ Temple, are enrolled in elementary, middle and high schools in different school districts around Rome.

"It's been exciting to see the kids improving in their work and seeing that improvement pay off in their grades," said Andre Watts, the tutoring program's coordinator and an elder at Greater Christ Temple. "We've seen great improvement in many cases. Beyond their grades, it's so important that these
kids have these Berry students to stand with them, to partner with them."

The youth receive help in subjects such as science, math, reading, geography, Spanish, English and social studies. Berry students choose a subject area in which they have some expertise, then they are paired with a
student who needs help in that area, Watts said.

Will Graham, a Berry senior, for example, has worked all year with14-year-old Aaron Watts in the subject areas of science and math. Grahamsaid he's seen "definite improvement" in Watts's academic achievement. Aaron,

Watts agrees.

"Will helps me with my assignments and homework," Watts said. "It's pulledup my grades. But we also just joke around sometimes and talk about things that aren't school-related, especially if we haven't seen each other in a while."

Aaron Watts said his grades in math have improved more than a letter grade since tutoring began last September.

Saying 'Yes!' to the program

Andre Watts; Brian Carroll, associate professor of Communication and director of the Honors Program at Berry; and Chris Diller, associate professor of English and director of the Writing Center, conceived of the
tutoring program during a breakfast last summer.

"It was funny," Carroll said. "After the breakfast, after asking me if I' d seen the TV show, 'Say Yes to the Dress,' Andre asked Chris and I: 'Are you saying, "Yes" to the tutor program?'"

Carroll said the tutor program aligns with his goals for the Honors Program, which include developing students in the areas of leadership and service, and leadership in service. But Carroll was quick to credit Watts for coming up with the idea and for being the driving force behind the program all year

"I missed a lot of the basics" in terms of education growing up, Andre Watts said, explaining his decision to start the program. "I remember always saying that it would be nice to have a conducive environment for learning to be able to excel in school."

Berry freshman Rachel Blair, who tutors 7th-grader Toresha Millsap in math and science, said she tutors because she wanted to invest in the success of an individual student.

"I knew that it would make a big impact," said Blair, a Communication major. "I knew that they were assigning one individual student to each of us, and I knew that that meant that I could have time to invest in one student inparticular and give them my quality time."

Tyler Kaelin, also a Berry freshman, is a science and pre-algebra tutor to Joharri Logan, a 9th-grader at Rome High. Kaelin said he wants to be "more than a tutor" to his student.

"I want to make sure that if he has questions about anything or needs advice, I'm there," said Kaelin, a biochemistry and math major from Milton, Fla.

Watts said he hopes that the program will expand with tutoring on more days during the week and possibly with other churches joining to help students who want or need it.

Hot meals

In addition to tutoring services, the program also offers up a hot meal each and every Monday.

After preparing and serving meals during the fall semester, the church got help for the spring semester by partnering with Seven Hills Fellowship Church, which meets on Sundays in the DeSoto Theatre. Families and
discipleship groups from Seven Hills Fellowship have been taking turns  providing the tutors and pupils with weekly meals.

"The response to the need from Seven Hills families was immediate and overwhelming," Carroll said. "They covered all of our meals for the entire spring semester."

As an extension of the tutoring program, Berry's football team partnered with Greater Christ Temple for the church's Easter egg hunt outreach last month, one of the church's biggest events each year. The dozen or so players helped boil, dye and hide roughly 3,000 eggs supplied by the Georgia Egg Commission for the event, which annually is attended by hundreds of youth from the community.

Football head coach Tony Kunczewski said he signed his players up to help because he wants them to value community service.

"I think it's important for our guys to understand how blessed and how fortunate they are," he said. "We've set the expectations early on. We do expect them to help out in the community. If we want people to support us, we've got to go out and support others."

The egg hunt was held March 30 at the Coosa Valley Fairgrounds.

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