A MEANINGFUL AND REWARDING OPPORTUNITY: 
TUTORING AT A CHICAGO ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

Jahn School

In 1997 the Yale Club of Chicago adopted a school in need as a club project. It was conveniently named the Elihu Yale Elementary School and was located in the Englewood neighborhood. The YCC provided volunteer tutoring services at the K-8 Chicago Public school.

Over the next 16 years, many Yale alumni participated in the tutoring project. They developed beneficial relationships with classroom teachers and students, providing assistance when appropriate. The academic focus was usually on developing reading, writing, and math skills. The tutors became an important part of the fabric of the school. In addition to the classroom visits, they occasionally led school field trips to some of Chicago’s major cultural attractions. The project changed in 2013, when the Yale School was one of the 54 Chicago Public Schools which were closed.

The YCC wanted to continue this volunteer tutoring service project, and officers of the YCC and some of the tutors meet with appropriate staff at the Chicago Public Schools headquarters which promptly responded with a list of some schools that might be appropriate for the tutoring project. YCC representatives then conducted interviews with the principal and other staff at each school, probing for indications that the school would welcome the Yale project and be a “good fit.”

The Frederich Ludwig Jahn Elementary School (3149 North Wolcott Avenue, Chicago, IL 60657) was selected to be the future site of the tutoring program. It is a K-8 school that also has a pre-school program. It is in Roscoe Village near the corner of Damen and Belmont Avenues. The YCC started sending tutors to the Jahn School in the fall of 2013. Some recent Jahn School enrollment data: approximately 450 students, 75% of whom are designated “low income” and 72% if whom are “Hispanic”. Among other features, Jahn School has a music program, computer and science labs, and internet access (click here for Chicago Public School report)

What traits and experiences make an effective tutor? We have found that specific training in subjects such as reading and math is unnecessary for the role that YCC tutors play. Their work requires only good common sense and the desire to help and inspire. Parents who have read to their own children have all the training one needs to make a significant contribution.

Time commitment? To be an effective tutor, one should commit to one three-hour visit per week to the school; this can be either in the morning or in the afternoon. And, the tutor may select any day of the five day week. The tutor should work with the same classroom teacher each week. This allows for the long-term development of a relationship between the tutor and teacher. While participation is entirely voluntary and flexible, ideally we would like each tutor – after viewing the tutoring program and agreeing to be a participant – to commit to a weekly visit for the entire school year. We recognize, however, that a tutor cannot always be free to come to the school. If an occasional absence is unavoidable, we ask that the tutor alert the classroom teacher. The Jahn School Principal has designated one of her staff teachers to work with the YCC Tutoring Coordinator to arrange for the best fit between tutor, teacher, and class with special consideration for the age level of the students. We encourage Yalies to consider participation. Being an active tutor is by no means limited to YCC members. We welcome interest and participation from all who have some sort of Yale University connection, be it alumni/alumnae, undergraduate or graduate degree, parents of Yale students, and spouses and significant others of Yalies. In 2014 the Dartmouth Club of Chicago became a partner of ours at the Jahn School. Special field trips arranged by the YCC this year have included the Chicago Chamber Musicians and the Art Institute of Chicago.

For further information or to explore the possibilities of volunteering please contact Bill Fry at 847-256-2532 (land) or 847-977-9771 (cell) or w-fry@northwestern.edu

 
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