Volunteers help students achieve success

02/24/2012 12:00 AM

02/24/2012 9:51 AM

For many students, completing school work during the lunch hour might seem like a chore. But for Cloud Elementary fourth-grader Rogelio, working on multiplication tables and long division over lunch has become a combination for success.

Over the past three academic years, Rogelio, a little brother with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Sedgwick County, has met weekly with his big brother in the program, Scott Ramsey. During their partnership, Rogelio has steadily improved his grades and attitude, Ramsey says.

“It’s a good feeling to know I’ve had a positive effect on him,” says Ramsey. “Sometimes it just takes someone different saying it in a different way, one on one. No one else is around, so he doesn’t have to worry about being wrong.”

Ramsey and Rogelio participate in Big Brothers Big Sisters’ school-based mentoring program, in which all of their interactions occur at school during regular school hours. The two not only complete school work, they have fun as well, playing board games and outdoor sports, or simply drawing.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is just one of the many nonprofit organizations throughout the Wichita area that provide tutoring and mentorship for students.

Tutoring support

The Boys & Girls Clubs of South Central Kansas offers a variety of programs to help youths gain educational skills, set goals, explore careers, prepare for employment and embrace technology to achieve success in a career, according to information on the organization’s website. The afterschool program “Club Launch” helps students receive workforce training and academic tutoring. In addition, the club’s daily “Power Hour” is a comprehensive homework help and tutoring program designed for club members ages 6 to 12.

The Urban League of Kansas offers several programs targeting young people, according to information on the league’s website. The “Caring Ladies Assisting Students to Succeed,” or CLASS program, is a structured support system for young women in urban Wichita schools. CLASS participants meet in groups for approximately two hours each week, attending workshops in character building, mentorship, life skills and educational guidance. The “National Urban League Incentive To Excel and Succeed,” or NULITES program, offers college and career counseling for young men and women, including educational seminars, college tours and other educational field trips.

The Kansas Department of Education also maintains an approved list of “supplemental educational services providers.” These providers include both public and private organizations. Although the list is developed by the department for programs offered to low-income families, all families may pay for tutoring services on their own, if that option is offered by the organization. Low-income families may be eligible for free or reduced price tutoring sessions. Contact your child’s school for more information.

To access the list, visit www.ksde.org and click on “Title 1” in “Most Requested Topics.” Click “Title 1 Supplemental Educational Services” in the right hand column and scroll down to “Kansas Approved Providers.”

Volunteering: First steps

For Ramsey, becoming involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters took a bit of encouragement from the youth minister at his church, who was married to a staff member at the organization. Ramsey, a Mulvane resident, said the program has been the right fit for his busy schedule, which includes a full-time job, daily commute and management of his family’s ranch.

“I had been interested, but didn’t feel like I could make the time commitment. But through the ‘Bigs in Schools’ program, I could volunteer at a school close to my work during my lunch break. I could get involved with tutoring and playing games with a student, without the big time commitment,” Ramsey said.

Similarly, big brother Joe Johnson has volunteered in the program for six years, mentoring his little brother from third to eighth grade.

“I’m hopeful that my time with him has helped shape him as a person and shown him that by my being there weekly, what it is to be responsible,” Johnson says.

For those who may be considering volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters, or any mentorship opportunity, Ramsey says to “take the risk” and contact the organization.

“Say ‘I’m unsure, and here are my apprehensions and concerns.’ Let them talk to you. Let them coach you through their recommendation and see where you would fit best,” he says.

Like Ramsey, Johnson encourages adults to consider serving as a big brother or sister.

“Try it. Just do it. It’s very beneficial to both the child and the person volunteering. It’s not meant to get too involved, but just to be there for them if they have concerns. It’s something they can rely on. Every week, they know that you are coming. It’s so important in Wichita that people do this because the children need that time together with adults,” Johnson said.

For parents who may be hesitant about signing their child up, Ramsey says they can always reach out for assistance.

“Maybe it’s a single mom who thinks her son could benefit from a positive male figure. Or teachers can recommend it based on what they see behavior-wise,” Ramsey said.

Johnson says parents should get started in the program and monitor their child’s feelings to see if it is a good fit.

Volunteers reap personal rewards

Ramsey says that volunteering to tutor or mentor is a great way to influence young lives.

“I enjoy knowing that I am hopefully touching his life in a positive way. I am able to provide another reinforcement of social interaction and how to relate with other people …using manners, saying please and thank you. It’s an additional opportunity to impact that child,” Ramsey said.

Johnson agrees, when asked about the best part of volunteering.

“Seeing [my little brother] every week and spending time with him, and the fact that he seems to enjoy it. There are many times when my schedule gets busy and I feel like I might not be able to make it. But I know he counts on me,” Johnson said.

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