Eniya White, 9, left, works on a reading-writing packet as Aaron Brown tutors Jade Rose, 9, during an after-school tutoring program at Monroe Street United Methodist Church in Toledo.
She arrived for her first day of afterschool tutoring kicking, screaming, and crying.
Toledo’s Tashala Boyd was 14, and her mother, Lisa Howell, a sheriff’s deputy for Lucas County, was taking her to the Learning Club of Toledo for the first time.
“I don’t need this,” the teenager yelled at her mother before she started to cry again.
Fifteen years later, Ms. Boyd, 29, says her mother’s decision to make her attend the tutoring program was one of the most loving and important things she’s ever done for her. “I wasn’t having problems in school,” Ms. Boyd said, recalling she mostly earned As and Bs in school.
“But my mother told me, ‘It’s not OK to settle for being mediocre or just good enough to get by.’
“She wanted me to go above and beyond.”
That’s what the Learning Club of Toledo has been doing since tutoring its first 25 students in 1992 at Redeemer Lutheran Church, Board President William Mitchell said. Since then, the program has served thousands of students in grades 1 to 12 and expanded its program sites, which this year include Monroe Street United Methodist Church, Pickett Academy, Imagine Madison Avenue School of Arts, and Warren AME Church.
The program’s priority is helping youths who are struggling in school, said Deborah Apgar, program executive director. But students who are doing well, but just want some more help are welcome also. There is no charge to enroll in the program.
The Learning Club is operating seven programs this fall, but could add more this school year if additional funds become available, Mr. Mitchell said.
Monroe Street United Methodist Church, as well as some of the other afterschool tutoring sites, began operating their programs last week.
On Thursday, students Eniya White, 9, and Jose Carrizales, 8, excitedly jumped out of their parent’s vehicles as soon as they arrived at the church and ran inside at top speed until they reached the tutoring room.
Jose Carrizales, 8, center, smiles at Diego Duran, 8, right, as they work on a reading-writing skill packet during a tutoring session at Monroe United Methodist Church in Toledo.
Young Carrizales, a third-grader at St. Pius X Catholic School, stopped to snack on a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Young White, a fourth-grader at Imani Learning Academy, was already studying by the time her tutors arrived.
“I love learning,” said the young White, who is starting her second year in the program. “I had to beg my granny to let me come.
“I was already doing good, but I wanted to learn more. Like before, I didn’t know how to spell squirrel; now I do.”
There are a lot of reasons why students like coming to the tutoring program, said Brandilyn Dixon, who oversees the program at the Methodist Church.
The students get to make new friends, get to know the staff, and they get used to the daily structure, something they don’t always have at home, she said. There’s also the “points” incentive.
Students earn points for doing well on quizzes, attendance, lining up when told, having a good attitude, and working with tutors, Ms. Dixon said. The students can then cash their earned points for various prizes ranging from basketballs to books or even a new bike.
The students are frequently quizzed so that staff can use the information to measure their skill levels. But, since the students earn points on each quiz, they don’t seem to mind.
When they learn at their own rate it reduces the pressure, allows them to do better, and results in more confidence, Ms. Dixon said.
“At the Learning Club they are working at a level that’s comfortable for them,” Ms. Dixon said. “School can be frustrating for them when they fall behind.”
The 25-year-old Ms. Dixon, like many of the program’s leaders, can relate well to the students. She was once a student in the program too, and then was hired as a tutor. She’s been with the program ever since.
Much like Tashala Boyd 15 years ago, Ms. Dixon at one time didn’t think she belonged in the program, but now has found her calling.
It took Ms. Boyd a little longer. She continued working as a tutor for the Learning Club until she earned an associate of arts degree from Owens Community College in 2006. When nothing came of that, she tried to follow in her mother’s footsteps and worked as a corrections officer.
She remembered her mother’s advice and decided not to “settle” for a career, but to work harder and pursue her real dream. In June she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in television and production from the highly competitive Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta. Her producer credits already include American Idol and she’s working on the next installment of Fast and Furious.
“As a parent I can’t tell you how it feels,” Ms. Howell said. “I’m so proud of her. She is phenomenal.”
For more information on the Learning Club contact Ms. Apgar at 419-360-2842 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Federico Martinez at email@example.com or 419-724-6154.