Even in Happy Valley, there are students in elementary school who need supplemental academic assistance if they are to be successful in school. The Friendship Tutoring Program was created by the Outreach and Service Ministry Team of Faith United Church of Christ in State College to provide tuition-free academic support together with one-on-one mentoring.
Building on the foundation of the Park Forest Day Nursery, the first students were the older siblings of the day nursery children. Others were added at the recommendation of teachers from the State College Area School District. The number has increased from about 15 the first year to as many as 50 students from kindergarten through sixth grade. The program meets Sundays in the fall (September to December) and spring semesters (January through April) for 11/ 2 hours. The schedule includes a nutritious snack, completion of homework, computer work, reading, math, writing, educational games and the opportunity to keep a log.
Students are paired with a tutor who is a Penn State student, usually from the College of Education.
Childrens books from the First Book Organization are the heart of the program. These books are read by the children as they meet with their tutors and are treasured when the children select their own favorite book to take home after every four weeks of attendance.
The program supplies the necessary academic supplements to the regular school work. Teachers are contacted on a regular basis to provide feedback and guidance for the tutors. Teachers have indicated that this supplementary support has made a difference in the classroom and in the academic progress of the students. Parents have indicated that their children enjoy the tutoring sessions and grow to like school more.
The mentoring with a Penn State student has demonstrated personal and social growth in the children. The tutoring portion of the afternoon is important, but mentoring and friendship also is of utmost importance. Not only do the children become fond of the tutors, but the tutors find themselves forming strong connections with the children. Some of them even continue working together over several years.
Laura P. Griffin is director of the Friendship Tutoring Program.