Students at Saint Anselm College who have been tutoring Manchester school kids have learned they are doing more than just helping them comprehend subjects and earn better grades.
“Not only are we tutoring for academic support but also (providing) social and emotional support during this challenging pandemic time,” said Emily Coderre, 21, who is from Waterford, Conn. “Sometimes a student just wants a buddy to tell them about their day.”
Coderre, a senior, has tutored students at Southside Middle School and Memorial High School in a variety of subjects, including language arts and biology, as part of a nearly year-long program at the college known as the Remote Learning Collaborative, a partnership between the college and the Manchester School District.
Tutoring younger students helps Coderre, who is majoring in social work, develop her own skills and also provides her with the rewarding experience of knowing she’s making a difference in kids’ lives.
Run by the college’s Meelia Center for Community Engagement, Saint Anselm tutors, working in pairs, use Google Classroom and Google Meet to communicate with city students. Tutoring sessions are confidential and are available to elementary, middle school and high school students.
Currently, 10 schools are involved and approximately 190 students are being helped. Some are low income students, and some are English language learning students.
“Our program is open to anyone who might need help with a particular emphasis on students from backgrounds that are traditionally under represented or marginalized,” said Nicole Lora, the center’s director.
The college’s tutors fall into three categories: paid, volunteer, or Community Engaged Learners who are working in conjunction with a class. Those students come from a variety of disciplines.
Tutoring session times vary depending on student need and grade level, according to Lora. They average 30 minutes to an hour. Some students are tutored several times a week for a total of two or three hours.
Manchester school officials say Saint Anselm tutors provide a lot more than simple academic support.
“St. A’s tutors have been integral through the pandemic supporting all of our EL (English learner) students and helping to build connections with our EL students to high education experiences,” said Nicole Ponti, executive director of English learner instruction and equity. “Prior to the pandemic, Access Academy has been another great pathway for students to obtain ELO credit, experience college life, and build upon each EL’s strengths. We look forward to many more opportunities to work with Meeila and St. A’s through this positive partnership with our students.”
Since the collaborative began, 209 Saint Anselm students have been involved – 90 members of the student staff at Meelia and 119 Community Engaged Learners or volunteers.
Student staff spend five to six hours a week tutoring, while volunteers and Community Engaged Learners spend about two hours a week.
Funding for the program has come from a variety of sources, including the center’s student payroll and federal work study budget, the state Department of Education, the Manchester School District and Gear Up New Hampshire.
Gear Up (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is a federal program funded by the U.S. Department of Education whose mission is to increase the number of low-income middle and high school students who are prepared to enter and succeed in post-secondary education.
Tutoring can be requested by students, parents and school district employees. Several tutors have seen that the city students’ participation pays off for them.
Coderre cites one girl in particular that she’s been working with since the pandemic’s beginning.
“She’s grown tremendously, feels more comfortable doing some of her work individually and bringing it back to our tutoring sessions,” Coderre said. “You can see she just enjoys taking ownership of her own work and has grown in confidence in the year I’ve been working with her.”
Tiana Austin, a biochemistry major and 2020 Memorial High School graduate, says she typically hears from teachers who are happy to see their students improving.
“You can tell it’s making a difference when the student is excited to get on a session, they really want to talk to you about what’s going on in their day,” Austin said.
“Sometimes they feel a little nervous getting to meet new people for the first time. Eventually they warm up and you can see they’re excited to talk to us.”
The collaborative, which began as a pilot program and solicits feedback from participants and educators, is designed to provide tutoring when the college is not in session but Manchester kids are in school.
When the pandemic is over, Lora expects the collaborative will shift in accordance with the school district’s needs.
“We’ll work with the district and create what they think is best,” she said.