One of the most successful tutoring initiatives for the Refugee Youth and Family Program (RYFP) in Pinellas County has been their group tutoring sessions. Each week our Youth and Family Specialists (YFS) pick up a group of clients after school and bring them to a local library. The Middle School group tends to be smaller, with a manageable number of students, while the Elementary School group consistently has 9 or more students in attendance. The students at the Elementary group range in age and English ability, making it a tough job for the four YFS to manage on their own. Fortunately, we have a number of dedicated volunteers who attend the group each week to help the students receive more one on one attention. Each volunteer has a different experience and different methods of working with the children.
Jan, a St. Petersburg resident who has volunteered with the program since 2010, attends the group each week and typically works with one student. She helps motivate all of the students by bringing rewards such as stickers, note pads, or hair accessories. Jan has been most successful in helping to improve the study habits of one of the elementary students about to make the transition to middle school. When Jan first started working with Alejandro, he rarely focused or stayed on task. She spoke to some colleagues and looked into different techniques which could help Alejandro. Over the next few weeks she tried out these techniques, such as improving focus by rewarding hard work with a break for a story or preventing fidgeting by standing at the table rather than sitting. Some of these techniques made an impact, but what seemed most helpful to Alejandro was that he had someone committed to helping him. Although Alejandro still struggles to focus, he is starting to become more responsible and gets started on his work more quickly than he used to.
Joy, a senior at Eckerd College, started volunteering at the group in fall of 2011 to fulfill service hours for class and enjoyed the experience so much that she chose to continue volunteering. Joy helps in whatever way is needed that week, whether it be helping a small group of two or three students complete their homework or practice their reading or working one-on-one with a younger student while the more advanced students do a group tutoring activity. She also assists by creating tutoring lessons and helping in the office. Joy managed to hide her Spanish speaking abilities from the students for quite a few weeks, pushing the students to use their English as much as possible. Joy is familiar with working with young children because she has a younger sibling. She is aware of the tricks they attempt to veer of topic and she has a special knack for knowing just how to motivate them. The students look up to Joy, seeing her as a positive Hispanic role model.
The group also benefits greatly from the help of Anna, who has volunteered in both groups, in home, and in the office, and Tania, who started volunteering with RYFP just as the group was forming and helps out with collecting prizes for the students. We are lucky to have some new volunteers starting out with the group this year as well. The staff of RYFP is indebted to these devoted volunteers who manage to improve the lives and study skills of the students as they persevere through the chaos that comes with bringing a large group of active kids into the library. The students form a special bond with these volunteers and look forward to their arrival at group each week. If you have an hour or two to spare on a weekday afternoon and are interested in being a part of these groups, please contact the Volunteer Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727-450-7275. We have several group tutoring locations throughout Pinellas and Hillsborough and can always use an extra hand!
*Client’s name has been changed for confidentiality.