The Achieve Foundation of South Orange & Maplewood raises funds to enrich public education for all students, through classroom grants, volunteer tutors, professional development, family outreach, and technology and facility improvements.
Initiated as a grassroots effort in 1997, Achieve’s Volunteer Tutor Program recruits and trains volunteers to work with students in the South Orange – Maplewood school district. Tutors — who include retirees, parents, students, professionals and more — provide over 3,000 hours of free tutoring to more than 250 students in grades K-12 every year.
“Tutoring helps the students in so many ways but I also hear over and over again from the volunteers that it is incredibly rewarding for them as well, and so many of them return year after year,” said tutor program volunteer coordinator Amy Forman. “In addition to seeing their students improve academically they also have the chance to build a relationship. Because of this connection volunteers know they are truly making a difference.”
What does it take to be an Achieve tutor? First, no teaching experience is necessary, and training is provided. Tutoring takes place in schools supervised by district staff. Tutors can work day, evening or weekend hours and choose the age group and subject they prefer.
Tutors complete a registration process, attend a training workshop and commit to one hour a week of volunteering. For more information, call Forman at 973-762-5600 x1847 or email [email protected]
Forman said of the 185 current volunteers, 84 are Columbia High School students. There are six family pairs; one parent and child and five siblings.
One of those family pairs consists of twins Alexis and Noelle Broussard, South Orange residents who are 11th graders at Kent Place School. The girls recently agreed to answer questions about their experience as Achieve tutors.
How long have you been Achieve tutors, and what made you interested in doing it?
Alexis: I have been a tutor for one year. What initially piqued my interest in the program was learning about it through a friend that I go to school with. She told me how rewarding the experience would be, especially bonding with the kids. It sounded like a great experience so I decided to become a tutor and help elementary school students who are struggling in math.
Noelle: I began tutoring at Achieve this academic year and I became interested in it because my sister had told me about it and how fun her experience was.
How many students do you each tutor, and are they always the same students? What kinds of topics do you cover? Take us through a typical tutoring session: do you help them with homework, go over textbooks/workbooks, assist them with writing and reports?
Alexis: I tutor one elementary school student. Every session is with the same student because the goal is not only to help the student improve, but also to build a relationship with the student. I tutor my student in math, so we have recently been covering multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, so on and so forth. In a typical tutoring session, my student will bring whatever workbooks and homework she has, and I will ask her if there is any topic in particular that she needs clarification on. We will then go over the material she finds confusing, and I will work through the problems with her. If she forgets to bring her books, I will usually create my own practice problems for her to complete, helping her with any she has trouble solving.
Noelle: I tutor the same student every Saturday morning. We cover fifth grade math topics such as fractions and multiplication of decimals. In a typical tutoring session I would start off with asking what topic the student covered in math in the past week and what topics she had trouble with. Then if she did not bring a workbook, I would make up a few problems covering that specific topic and have her work through them. If she brought a workbook I would have her work through the problems and if I saw she was getting stuck on a problem, I would work through it with her.
What is your favorite part of tutoring, and what do you get out of it? Have you been able to watch the progress of some students through time?
Alexis: I would honestly say that my favorite part of tutoring is simply being able to form a close relationship with my student. Forming a trust with my student and getting to know her as an individual has been very enjoyable for me. However, watching her steady progression is certainly the most rewarding throughout the entirety of the process. I can see how much more easily the answers to multiplication questions come to her and her ability to recall the tricks that I have taught her is incredibly gratifying.
Noelle: My favorite part of tutoring is getting to interact with my student and really getting to know her. I love having the opportunity to help a younger student and I love feeling that after every session, my student can go to school the next week and feel like she can better understand the topics she is learning. I have definitely seen my student grow in math especially and the different topics and review we go over each week are a reflection of that.
Do you have any good stories to share about an experience you’ve had while being Achieve tutors?
Alexis: One session, I was going through multiplication with [my student] and I had been asking her to circle the multiples she had trouble with for the past couple of weeks, always reminding her to do so when she forgot. Yet, during that session while we were going over multiplication, she began circling the multiples she had trouble with on her own, without a single reminder. I was so incredibly proud of her that I caught myself smiling. It is experiences like these that inspire me to keep tutoring for Achieve.
Noelle: I remember one session I was tutoring my student and we were working through her workbook together. We came upon one particular problem and when I showed her how to do it she told me that her teacher taught her another way to solve the problem. Since I was unfamiliar on the method her teacher taught her, I asked her to show me her teacher’s method. It was an ironic switch in roles, for at that moment, she was the one who was teaching me and it really showed her growth in math as a whole.
Why do you think other teens should consider tutoring for Achieve? Your life as “typical teens” must be incredibly busy and packed with school, activities, etc. Why do you set aside time to do this for Achieve?
Alexis: I strongly encourage other teens to consider tutoring for Achieve because it has incredibly enhanced my leadership skills. Not only have I learned how to be responsible and take ownership of both my own, as well as my student’s, mistakes, but it has also tremendously impacted my confidence level. I now feel that I have the ability to be a role model to my student and the relationship I have formed with her in the process is something that I would not trade. I constantly make an effort to set aside time to tutor for Achieve because I know that I cannot let my student down. Not only am I responsible for her learning, but also for showing commitment to helping her succeed. Therefore, it is imperative that I give her my time the best that I can. Overall, tutoring with the Achieve program is such an incredible experience and I am so happy that I am able to be a part of my student’s improvement.
Noelle: I believe tutoring for Achieve is a really great opportunity to give back to the community in a way that is enjoyable and involves hands on activities. Even though my schedule is hectic at times, I do value the time spent to help other members of the community and I make sure to organize my time so that helping the community becomes a priority.