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November 20, 2003 Print this page

La Salle University's Free Tutoring Program
for Neighborhood Children Needs More Volunteers

More than 40 La Salle University students volunteer to tutor neighborhood children, but that's not enough to meet the demand. Some families have to wait months or more before their child can receive the help they need from the free program.

Martina Wallace is one parent who waited patiently for almost a year for before her son Marquis was paired with a tutor.

"After only two sessions, I have seen a change in Marquis' language arts assignments. They are neater and he understands them," says Wallace, about her sixth-grade son. "Marquis took a liking to the program and his tutor immediately."

"The service that these students provide for a few hours a week can mean the difference between a student falling behind academically or catching up and excelling," says Sean Lavelle, administrative assistant of La Salle's University Ministry and Service, which coordinates the program.

"Thanks to our current volunteers and an extremely dedicated group of student coordinators, the Neighborhood Tutoring program is thriving," he says. "We are constantly trying to incorporate new families into the program but doing so depends on the participation of new volunteers," he says. "This is why we need to find more tutors."

One tutor, Meredith Lieberman, says the best part is the one-on-one relationship between tutor and student. "It is a year-long bond, and the tutors become mentors and friends to the students. Returning students are paired with their same tutors from the previous year, showing the program's strength," she says.

Tutors provide help in any subject, but the majority of students need assistance with math and reading. Consequently, these are the areas of most noticeable improvements.

"My student, Monica, has improved incredibly in math," says Maria Reyes, another tutor. "She now does mathematical calculations in her head and doesn't use her fingers. She is already on the road to multiplication concepts!"

Students and tutors meet twice a week in the media center of La Salle's library. Any homework or studying that the student has that evening is brought to their session. The students, mostly in the sixth grade or lower, come from more than 30 area public schools

Registration for the program takes place in early September, and tutoring gets under way later that month. Sessions continue until the La Salle students go on winter break in December, and then restart in January, continuing until May.

Neighborhood Tutoring has the highest number of consistent volunteers from all of La Salle's service groups. "I try to keep the lines of communication open and let the tutors know that I am open to any feedback that will lead to future successes for our great program," says Reyes. "The tutors are great. They jump right in and work with the kids. They have good ideas and methods to keep them on task."

The program has been recognized by former President Clinton as one of the largest volunteer groups in the country.

For further information, call La Salle University's Office of Ministry and Service at (215)-951-1804.

-- Karen Toner