Program takes tutoring into neighborhoods

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 20, 2001

Mary Jane Gaudet wants to see &uot;gangs of kids reading.&uot; That’s why the administrator with Families First Resource Center is proud of a grant-funded tutoring program the center began last year. The program is part of the center’s work with the Adams County Youth Court and with the help of the United Way of the Miss-Lou.

Because Gaudet sees a correlation between juvenile delinquency and academic failure, center employees think such programs can make a difference.

&uot;By fifth-grade all of your learning depends upon reading, and if you can’t read, you can’t advance in anything,&uot; Gaudet said. &uot;You don’t want anybody to know you can’t read.&uot;

Children who have trouble in school are often the ones who begin acting out in class or engage in delinquent behavior, Gaudet said.

To address this problem early, the Families First Resource Center designed its tutoring program to take place in the communities where children actually live.

The center began the tutoring in May 2000 and about 175 children are currently participating at its various sites – its office on Market Street, Thompson School, Oakridge Manor, Holiday Apartments, Lagrange Subdivision, Linwood Subdivision, Susie B. West Apartments and the Salvation Army.

Hilda Little, a retired teacher who tutors at the Susie B. West Apartments site, said she has seen great success since she began teaching the children last year.

Of about 35 students who attended tutoring at Susie B. West Apartments during the school year none of them had to attend summer school because of failing grades, she said.

&uot;The children seem to enjoy it,&uot; she said. &uot;They look like they want to learn.&uot;

Faye Minor, coordinator for Families First Resource Center, said she has seen similar benefits at other sites including one of the largest – Holiday Apartments on Old Washington Road.

The teachers monitor the students’ report cards, and they have seen several students go from making average to below average grades to making &uot;Bs&uot; or &uot;As&uot; and &uot;Bs,&uot; Minor said.

&uot;Teachers proudly tell you about that,&uot; she said.

And about 10 students who were behind in their grade level have also seen their grades improve, she said.

&uot;And (the children) enjoy coming to tutoring,&uot; Minor said. &uot;Really I think it’s like a place to go.&uot;

When asked why they liked the tutoring, Myron Bindon, 7, and Shunaiqua Ellison, 8, first thought of food.

&uot;We get to eat a snack and do work,&uot; Ellison said.

But Little and her three student-assistants think the children enjoy the tutoring as much as they like teaching them.

&uot;I like helping children because there’s a joy in knowing that I’ve touched someone’s life,&uot; said Veronica Elery, who will be a senior at Natchez High School this year.

And Carl Minor, who will begin school at Copiah-Lincoln Community College this year on a basketball scholarship, said the children made him remember his own childhood.

&uot;Things they do remind me of myself,&uot; he said.

During the school year, the tutors help the children with their homework and during the summer Little said the tutors help the students in whatever subjects that give them difficulty.

&uot;It’s up to us to try to find where their weaknesses are and try to strengthen them,&uot; she said.