At 55, Tutorial Project still changing children’s lives

By RITIKA ACHREKAR | February 20, 2014

Now in its 55th year, the Tutorial Project enables Hopkins students to reach out and make a difference in the lives of children in the Baltimore community.

The program pairs elementary school students with Hopkins undergraduates who tutor them in math and reading. At the beginning of the semester, the children get the chance to briefly talk to all of the tutors in a meet and greet session. The organizers then match each student with a tutor who will best be able to help them. Together, the students and tutors set academic goals to work towards.

The role of the tutor often goes beyond academic support. Many of the students in the program face challenges such as poverty and growing up in a single parent home.

“Just being a mentor and being a positive role model is what the kids need,” Young Song, the Tutorial Project Director, said. “They need a social, emotional connection with someone they can depend on.”

Song, who taught Kindergarten and worked in Human Resources before taking the helm at the Tutorial Project seven years ago, has worked hard to widen the focus of the program and help the children more holistically.

“For some of these kids, they have that emotional emptiness,” Song said. “They need someone sometimes in order to learn. Someone to build their self esteem and self confidence and encourage them to take the chance to raise their hand in class.”

Looking forward, Song hopes to set up a referral service for children with emotional needs that the program alone cannot meet.

The program also benefits the tutors.

”It’s a great experience for Hopkins students who do it too because people are always stressed out here, which is understandable because it’s a very high stress environment,” junior Frankie Svilder, one of the two student directors of the program, said. “But, I think taking a break two days a week to help out kids is very much needed because you learn so many things from being a tutor like being patient and different ways to solve problems.”

Svidler, who has been tutoring kids since high school, joined the Tutorial Project as a freshman. She started by tutoring one-on-one and later became responsible for overseeing a larger group of students. This year, as a student director, she has increased the number of children enrolled from 54 to 60 and hopes to see that number rise as the program continues to grow.

“So many kids reach their goals and it’s so awesome,” Svidler said. “It’s so nice to see them so happy and proud.”

Similar to Svidler, freshman Rachel Kassler joined the Tutorial Project because she already had experience working with children. Throughout high school, she volunteered at a therapeutic riding center that provided horseback riding lessons to children with physical and mental disabilities.

“It helps them see that they are able to control their environment and have an effect on their environment,” Kassler said.

Last semester, she started tutoring a nine-year-old girl and helped her reach her goals in the areas of reading comprehension and math.

“The experiences are very different, but what carries [on] is positive encouragement by someone older than you that’s helping you out, [which] definitely lets you know that you can do things on your own,” Kassler said.

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