UI students tutor children at Broadway Center


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Ryan Fisher struck a deal.

"How about you read the first paragraph, and I read the second paragraph," he asked the fourth-grader next to him. "Does that sound fair?"

William Hudson, 9, began to read from the Hardy Boys book that Fisher held.

Hudson is one of 15 students enrolled in the afterschool tutoring program at the Broadway Neighborhood Center.

The tutoring program began in April with 10 students and 10 tutors.

Now, the center has around 35 tutors.

Made up of college students and community members, the after-school group works with local elementary students on math and reading every Tuesday and Thursday afternoons in the center's basement.

Fisher, the volunteer coordinator, said the college-age volunteers are positive for the kids because they are interacting with people closer to their age.

"I've already been there; I know what it's like," he said.

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Priscilla Little, a senior researcher at the Harvard Family Research Project, said besides providing a targeted academic structure, research shows one-on-one tutoring builds personal connections that benefit children's lives.

"All a young person needed was one good relationship with an adult to put them on a positive path," Little said.

Nine-year-old Mia Neal, sitting in her pink winter coat on the sofa, reads from the Mickey Mouse version of the "Prince and the Pauper" with her tutor, Zoey Miller. It's a story, Miller said, they have worked on together for the last few weeks.

"It's cool to see her grow as a reader and as a young student," said Miller, an 18-year-old University of Iowa freshman.

Her UI rhetoric class requires 15 hours of community service, but she wanted a long-term volunteering commitment.

Miller's months-long relationship with Mia allowed her to build trust with the young girl.

"It affects me as much as it does her," Miller said.

Mia said she now enjoys reading more than she did when the program began.

Lucas Held, the director of communications at the Wallace Foundation, a national group working to broaden access to good schools and provide enrichment, said these types of after-school programs affect students on three levels.

First, students believe in their own abilities, which then improves attitude toward school and learning. Finally, it improves their actual academic learning, Held said.

UI sophomore and center tutor Katie Shields also needed to complete service hours for a class.

"I think that the program is really important for them from the homework aspect but relationships can be just as beneficial," Shields said.

Mia's sister Mya, 13, works with Shields. A book is open in front of them, but the two young women are just talking. Shields listens intently as Mya talks about school, her science class, and building projects.

"She makes homework fun," Mya said.

But there's more going on than just school work. Fisher taught William how to play chess.

The fourth-grader said he had never outmatched his tutor, but Fisher implied the boy had won at least once.

Hudson lit up withrealization.

"Oh, yeah," he said. "I put you in a checkmate."

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