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Students serving students

Service learning programs set students up for success

 by Celeste Sepessy
 published on Thursday, November 2, 2006

Mesa middle school student Elizabeth Gutierrez (right) does her homework as her tutor, ASU freshman Tawaya Board works on her papers in Mesa, Arizona Wednesday./issues/arts/698639
Jeremiah Armenta / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Mesa middle school student Elizabeth Gutierrez (right) does her homework as her tutor, ASU freshman Tawaya Board works on her papers in Mesa, Arizona Wednesday.
 

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Sociology and religious studies senior Ryan Sarver knows how to get a kid interested in sociology.

"Do you ever wonder why you're not allowed to pick your nose in public?" he asks while sticking his index finger to his nostril.

Eighth grader Yesenia Garcia giggles.

"There are all sorts of social rules that we follow," Sarver says.

He receives a nod. Garcia understands him.

At the Care Partnership in Mesa, middle school students are unknowingly learning the basics about college and, at this booth, sociology.

Sarver works as a tutor for the America Reads/America Counts program. Twice a week, he comes to the Care Partnership to tutor at-risk elementary and middle school children in reading and math subjects. These students are predicted to possibly not graduate from high school. Students from both the America Reads/America Counts job program and ASU's Service Learning Program, a three-credit internship class, help the kids at the Care Partnership.

Last Thursday, the ASU America Reads/America Counts tutors set up a college fair for the kids. Each tutor gave a six-minute presentation on his or her major, financial aid or general studies requirements.

Sarver says that in order to reach the kids, a tutor must have an abundance of both energy and patience. "You literally have to throw stuff out there until something sticks," he says.

"They were just looking at me blankly and their eyes would wander up to the right and up to the left," he says. "Then I told them, 'Apparently you're really bored, so let me talk about something else.'"

It worked. Garcia says Sarver's presentation was funny. Garcia adds she learned that sociology is the study of humans.

In order to reach the kids, Sarver says a tutor must be willing to be a little embarrassed. "As long as you actually ask them enough questions to figure out who they are and what they enjoy, you'll be able to relate to them on some level," he says.

The America Reads/America Counts program is available to students eligible for work-study financial aid, says Adelina Zottola, assistant director for Science, Math and Art Service Learning, a different program that students can participate in for ASU credit.

"The relationship with a college student really helps de-mystify the idea of college so the children are inspired to think of college as a worthwhile and viable option for them," Zottola says.

She says that this is incredibly important because tutors work in areas where the dropout rate is high. "Many of the children have never met anyone (other than their teachers) who has been to college," Zottola says.

Sarver agrees. "How many of the kids even think they can go to college?" he says.

With the tutoring program, ASU students can show their tutee that college is attainable as long as they show dedication for school early on.

For students interested in academic credit, there is the Service Learning Program.

In this program, students tutor kindergarten through eighth grade children in math, science, art and reading two or three times a week.

Students can enroll in After-School Tutoring Service Learning (UNI 402, SPA 291 or SOC 294) where they tutor academically-behind children after their normal class hours.

Another option for students is the Science and Math Service Learning. Tutors help children during their school day for upper division science and math credit, applying their college coursework to lessons for the kids.

Education junior Annette Aguilar is in her third year of working with the Service Learning Program and tutors children from at-risk Phoenix schools two times a week. She says she changed her major from business to education after realizing how much she enjoyed working with kids.

Her first semester, Aguilar had to "start from scratch" with a little boy who was academically very far behind.

"We started with the alphabet," she says. "By the end of the semester I was really happy because I felt that I had taught him something."

Reach the reporter at Celeste.Sepessy@asu.edu.



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