By Joyce Coronel
Fourth-grader Charles Roberts and 18 of his fourth-grade classmates charge through the library doors after school on Wednesdays. The children know that just inside the library they’ll find not only a snack, but the individual attention they crave.
It’s all part of Salt River Project’s afterschool tutoring program at Hudson Elementary in Tempe. Charles’ mother, Lali, said her son once struggled with math but is doing better now.
“It gives him that one-on-one that he would not get in the classroom. He can ask questions like, ‘How do you do this’ or ‘How do you do that?’ He’s free to ask without someone else butting in,” Lali said as she sat in the lobby of the school, waiting for her son.
“He might need a little bit of help at home, but not like it used to be. The frustration is gone. He is more confident and his grades have gone up.”
Jen Martyn, the volunteer coordinator for SRP, has been tutoring at the school for eight years, but her history at Hudson extends even further into the past. She attended fifth and sixth grade at the school that sits near McClintock and Southern. Being part of the tutoring program has been rewarding, she said, and the students enjoy the extra attention.
“At the beginning of the year I had two kids and you could tell it was a struggle for them,” Martyn said. “And then at the end of the year, they were trying to stump me!” With time left over at the end of one session, Martyn taught the kids to spell Mississippi.
“They thought that was awesome. It was the longest word they knew. They were like, ‘I can’t wait to go home and tell somebody,’” Martyn said.
In order to be involved with the program, students must test below grade level, but that doesn’t stop others from begging to participate.
“A lot of the kids think that it is a privilege to be in this,” Martyn said. “They think that this is cool.” There’s a party twice a year and plenty of encouragement to work hard and experience success at school. “That’s the way!” Martyn told one boy. “You’ve got it now.”
Sophya Aguilar, 9, sat beside Martyn working on a math problem. “I love math now,” Aguilar said. “It helped me with multiplication and for my division tests.”
The program works because it’s structured and there’s accountability, Martyn said. Students are tested before they enter the program, midway through and at the end of the year. Dawn Minott, Hudson’s literacy coach, said she can tell by the data that the tutoring works.
“For the 20 kids who are being seen, I can tell you that 75 percent have made growth from the beginning of the year to the middle of the year on our district comprehension for reading and 80 percent showed growth in math,” Minott said. Not only that, seven of the students had already reached their end-of-the year goals by December.
The school’s fourth grade is “huge,” Minott said, with 35 students in each classroom. The individualized attention students receive at the hands of SRP tutors goes a long way toward helping them improve their school work, and she called the many helpers “fabulous.”
“This is so amazing that people volunteer their time,” Minott said. “To have somebody come regularly, every week from September through April, is amazing to us. As a school, we need that help.”
Patty Garcia-Likens, spokeswoman for SRP, said many of the company’s employees are eager to volunteer in the program.
“SRP is always looking for opportunities where we can have an impact on the community where our employees live and work and also where our customers live and work,” Garcia-Likens said.
“When we talk to the employees, they benefit as well because it’s such a good feeling to be able to help these students to get to where they need to be.”